Blown away nearly 10K

ImageSo today we’re expecting a huge storm here in the UK and the media are drawing comparisons with the storm of 1987 that caused huge damage across the country. I was only 3 in 1987, so I can’t really remember the storm but I do remember going to my playgroup and a huge oak tree covering the path we used to walk up. Fingers crossed we don’t lose as many beautiful trees tonight.

But with the stormy and frankly quite grim weather just around the corner, I thought I would get out there this morning and bank some miles. Again I managed to get my layering combination all wrong choosing to wear my winter over layer jacket. I set off fairly quickly but by 18 minutes I was pissed off. I was overheated, I didn’t want to take the jacket off as wearing it around my waist would annoy me. I was breathing heavier than usual, I just wanted to cut my run short and come home. I so nearly stopped but I remember thinking, you don’t do that these days you’re in the best shape you have been in at least 7 years just get on with it.

So I ditched the jacket and suddenly things seemed better my body cooled down and I hit a lovely rhythm. I passed loads of runners today and everyone of them was smiling. Once I got over my little internal fit I was smiling too.

Running in the strong winds was really challenging but kind of fun. At one point I distinctly remember getting blown sideways. I was thinking well it is good conditioning. I know this probably means I have stepped into the territory of crazy runner but I am actually pretty comfortable with this.

Todays run was just under 6 miles and I recorded a decent average pace similar to that of my 10K race at Bushy Park last Sunday. My finish was strong and I felt I had a bit in the tank. I used the Compeed blister plaster today and it did a good job. It was only at the end I started to feel any pain from the blister. In total I have ran 15 miles this week my half marathon in only 5 weeks away now so I need to start throwing in some longer runs which will be a challenge.

Here are my splits from todays run:


Complete training run:


Running is definitely infectious. My friend Sean has just moved to Berlin and I lent him ‘Born to Run’ a few weeks ago. I was delighted earlier this week to receive a message from him saying he ran 10k in the morning and had a vegan lunch. It is pretty sad but my running has definitely inspired some of my good friends to start running again. It is a sad fact of life that as we get older our bodies metabolism slows down and we need to take better care of ourselves. I am delighted that lots of my friends are starting to rediscover exercising regularly as they did in the past.

On this note I am running the Greenwich 10K with two of my oldest friends from school John and Pete on 10th November. I am really looking forward to us all doing this together, our lives have gone in different directions but I care deeply about them both and I am excited we are going to be exercising together and I am sure we will grab a few well deserved pints afterwards.

Did you go running in the wind today? If so, how was it? Do you have any tips for running in windy conditions? Please leave comments and let me know how your training has been this week.

Running with the deers

Damien Clarkson and Aimee Harrison in GoodGym gear

Bushy Park by Hampton Court was to be the venue for my first 10k race. I met my friend and fellow Hackney GoodGym member Aimee bright and early at 7:30 in the morning. The weather for the race was set to be mild if slightly overcast, I decided to stick to my routine of fruit smoothies for breakfast to fuel myself.

For my race fuel I opted for a straightforward banana smoothie Durian Rider would approve of with 4 bananas. Hoping that the potassium would help keep me hydrated and the bananas as always provide plenty of good clean carbhoydates.

I had never been to Hampton Court before and I was delighted to discover the park has wild deers roaming and I found the scenery to be truly stunning. We dodged the pre race shower and set in the blazing sun, in fact it felt hot with temperature at around 17c.

Today was also the first time I wore my new Garmin Forerunner 210, I really enjoyed being able to monitor my average pace throughout the race. It made sure I kept things nice and consistent in previous runs I have been guilty letting my pace drop and not really realising until someone whizzes past me.

I set off pretty briskly with a first mile pace of 7:29 in my head I had my race strategy all planned out. It went something like this ; position somewhere around 50th place, run the first 5k in about 22/23 mins, then negative split and speed round the second half in around 21 mins picking off people as I go.

In fact I went round like this:

Bushy Park 10k splits
My time of 48:53 placed me in 59th place out of 197 finishers. I am fairly pleased with the result, I thought I would place somewhere in that region. The time was slightly slower than I hoped and I am a bit upset I didn’t negative split. There were a couple of factors which definitely contributed to this these were:

  • It was wet and a lot of running was on grass or muddy uneven trails. I definitely was struggling for footing several occasions
  • It was hot, probably the hottest weather we have had in a few weeks and humidity of 88%
  • I am stupidly inexperienced and again should have put the foot down earlier on

However the run was so enjoyable and two really heartwarming things happened during the race which just makes me love running even more. Firstly a part of the course at around 4km and 9km went through a narrow muddy trail surround by fern trees. As I passed through the trail I heard a rustling on my left, I looked over expecting to see a runner who overcooked it being sick instead a massive stagg deer reared his head from the ferns. It gave me and the guy behind me a bit of a shock but wow it was amazing. I don’t think I will forget that moment for as long as I run.

The second heartwarming thing was of a more human nature at about 5:40 miles a guy pulled over in front of me and let out some frustration. I had seen him start running again after stopping earlier, he could obviously run as he was ahead of me. I just gave him a pat on the back and a few words of encouragement urging him make it the half a mile to the finish.

At the end of the race he came over to me thanked me for my words of encouragement saying he overcooked and I helped him get through the end of the race. That was really nice and made my day. The more I run the more I discover the running community is filled with wonderful people.  Afterwards I went for a lovely post run coffee with Aimee and her Mum. Aimee who hasn’t eaten meat in a few months and is interested in going vegan, did brilliantly running a time of 50.23 in her first 10k race. We both felt on such a high after the race and are already plotting out next races.

Bushy Park

What a vegan athlete eats

Fresh organic vegetables
I have been writing this blog for about 6 weeks now and I just wanted to say thanks for everyone who taken the time to read my blog, especially those who have gotten in touch with me. I have found connecting with other runners really inspirational and it has helped inspire me to train harder. The online running community is proving a fantastic place full of positive people living interesting lives.

So last week I asked a friend of mine what he thought of the blog and he said he liked it but I haven’t talked about food much. Which I realise I haven’t really. So I thought I would make this blog about what I am eating currently. I will give a quick rundown on a typical running day.


I am on fruit only breakfasts 6 out of 7 days a week with the occasional Sunday treat of pancakes or a cooked breakfast. I am generally eating my breakfast fruit in smoothie form to save time and to make it easier to consume a large quantity of fruit in one go. I like to base my smoothies around bananas, I have always been a big fan of them and they provide a great source of carbohydrates and good sugars to  power my running.

Below are a couple of favourite smoothies to make (I just use a electric hand blender)

Banana and spinach

  • 2 bananas
  • 200 ml of water
  • A handful of spinach

Banana and chocolate

  • 2 bananas
  • 200 ml or organic soya milk or your favourite milk of choice
  • A teaspoon of cocoa powder

Pineapple and apple

  • One whole pineapple
  • 2 apples
  • 100 ml of water

Pineapple and apple


About a year ago I stopped buying packaged bread from supermarkets, I had become interested in the real bread movement and I am lucky enough to live in an area where artisan bakeries are easy to come by. Packaged bread which we woof down in the UK contains up to 17 chemicals most which I have no idea what they are. This grossed me out. So now when I eat bread it normally is of the sourdough variety, I often get bread from my local bakery and recently a fellow runner Lauren has started baking sourdough bread and selling it to her friends.

However I have shifted away from my sandwich a day lunches, I occasional will have a real bread sandwich but most of the time I opt for a salad or leftovers from the night before. If I do make a salad I will usually use a grain like bulgar wheat, quinoa or brown rice. I have to say a huge bowl of salad with lots of weird and wonderful tomatoes from my local farmers market is the perfect treat.


Now this is really a varied affair, since embarking on my journey to a meat free life I have become really interested in cooking. I draw influences from a whole range of different cultures when I create my food. Living in London means you’re constantly exposed to new and exciting food and I am lucky enough to have many friends who are great cooks and inspire me to create new and exciting dishes consistently.


To give you a snapshot these are my dinners over the past 7 days:


Bulgar wheat pilaf with peppers


Leftover pilaf, cucumber chunks in hummus, roasted squash, peppers and salad


Polish food, gherkins, vegan homemade potato gnocchi, mushrooms and onions


Gobi aloo cauliflower, potato tomato curry


Green runner bean balti curry


Mix of Japanese food including sushi, glass noodles with sweet potato, spring rolls, miso


Tempured courgettes, courgette flowers, carrot salad with ginger and garlic, red cabbage salad, quinoa with peppers

So this is a snapshot of what I eat, I am lucky to live in an area with a great farmers market and a wide range of organic stores where I am able to get affordable fresh produce daily. I know that this isn’t as easy for everyone especially those living in the suburbs in the UK. If you’re one of those people you should check out the possibility of getting a vegetable box delivered from your local farm.

Finally I would love to hear what other vegan/vegetarian runners eat whilst training? Please drop me a tweet or even better comment on this blog.

Thanks for reading,


Winter running is coming

Winter training gear is on

Training this week has been fantastic! although I feel like my 3 runs since Monday have taken place in 3 different seasons with the temperature dropping here in the UK daily. I was up bright and early on Monday morning and did a 10k around Walthamstow Marshes which is simply beautiful. I held a steady pace between 8:30/8:40, I am generally finding I am enjoying the second half of my 10k runs more than the first 5k. It seems to take me a little while to settle into a nice rhythm. I did quite a bit of hill work which in Hackney is a challenge. I felt a real sense of achievement arriving back at the flat before 9:00 already having done 10k.

I then went for a lovely little run with Kasia around Hackney Downs park on Wednesday. This was a much slower run than I would normally do but I found it really useful. We did 3.48 miles at a leisurely average pace of 9:18. This was great for me as I got to try some drills and focus on form. One I drill I tried which recently read about in my book ‘The Cool Impossible’, was tackling hills with your hand behind your head. The drill helps with maintaining good posture and getting you to drive your knees through when powering up those hills.

Hackney Downs Park

We ended our run at the lovely new vegan cafe The Black Cat. The cafe is 100% not for profit and run as a workers co-op. They have a great range of tasty meals which are reasonably priced and they sell some great vegan products. I purchased the Zapatista coffee which I can highly recommend.  If you live in London you should check it out regardless of whether you’re vegan or not, I have already taken several friends there and we all love it.

Then today of a sudden I turned into Mo Farah, well if you believe RunKeeper. Apparently I ran 8.84 miles in 45.54, admittedly I forgot to switch over to my mobile data network before leaving the house which probably explains the crazy stats. When I got home after some initial excitement I mapped out the route of WalkJogRun and the actual distance was the 10k I thought it was. Meaning that I had ran 10k in 45.54 which still is one of my better efforts of late and leaves me feeling really confident going into my Bushy Park 10k on the 20th October. I am now starting to believe it might be possible to duck under 45 mins on the day especially with the adrenaline that comes with competing. The wind today was really strong here in the UK approaching gale force, obviously this may have helped when the wind was at my back but when it was blowing across it felt like hard work. Does anyone have tips for countering strong cross winds?

Whilst writing this blog Runkeeper got back to me about the stats, they actually think my stats were pretty accurate my trip at an accuracy of 10m. Apparently this shouldn’t have been enough to create a 2 mile discrepancy. So perhaps I did just run like the strong wind today. Perhaps the actual result is somewhere in the middle. In a few days I will run the same route and see what kinda stats I turn out then.

Below is the RunKeeper message to me:

Runkeeper reply

I also have some big news in my slightly running obsessed world. Today I signed up to run my first half marathon since 2010. I will be taking part in the Ashford Half Marathon on the 1st December in my home county of Kent. It is a new half marathon which starts and finishes in a stadium and involves a mix of terrains. I am going to be running it with a new friend of mine Nicola who is a good runner quite excitingly her target time is 1:38 to 1:45 which is in the same range as mine. The Runners World time predictor is telling me that I am currently heading for 1:41 but with 6 weeks until the race the chances are that If I keep improving I could do something below 1:40 mark.

I would love to hear how other runners training is going this week? In the UK how have you adapted to the change of seasons? I would love to hear suggestions for how to layer up because my top today made me feel a bit too hot. Also I would love to hear from people who have run half marathons, if you have any training tips or plans I should follow that would be great.

This week I have already ran 16-18 miles and I am not sure what kind of mileage I should be doing for my half marathon training?

Thanks for reading.

Damien x

The Magic Mile

GoodGym Track Night

Recently the running/volunteering group I attend GoodGym announced they were holding a  track night. At the grand old age of 29 this would be the first time I had ever ran on a real running track. It was safe to say I was pretty excited and as we arrived at the track in Mile End the floodlights switched on; It felt proper. For a brief moment I was expecting Mo Farah to pop his head around the door and announce he would be joining us a for a run.

Pictures courtesy of GoodGym

Pictures courtesy of GoodGym

I had been thinking a lot about what my mile time would be mainly whilst listening to the Marathon Talk podcast. And to be honest I didn’t really have much of a clue. My race 5K PB is only 22:12 but I have ran 19 min 5k’s in training runs all be it with downhill involved. So I had a suspicion I might be capable of doing something half decent. The problem being I literally had no idea about how to pace it. Of course I had read a little bit beforehand and Ade one of the GoodGym coaches gave us some valuable advice before we set off.

Pictures courtesy of GoodGym

Pictures courtesy of GoodGym

There was only about 11 of us taking part but some serious runners were in the group so I was curious to see how I would match up to the tough competition. After doing some fun dynamic warms ups we got ready to start our race. I remember thinking this is amazing, why haven’t I done this before, followed by thinking I hope I don’t false start. Then before I knew it we were off and all I could think was; “wow! this is fast”. A couple of the runners set off at a blistering pace probably sub 5 min, so within a 100 metres I knew my race would take place somewhere in the middle of the pack.

I tried settling down into a nice rhythm trying not to worry myself with what the other runners were doing or how I was quite close to the back of the pack. Honestly after 2 laps I remember thinking I can’t believe I have to run two more of these. I was definitely feeling the burn but on that third lap my body realised it would all be over soon and I realised Ade and I had reeled in the runner in front and as she went past I went with her. All of a sudden I felt a bit more optimistic, perhaps I was fitter than I realised and capable of not collapsing in a pathetic heap.

Pictures courtesy of GoodGym

Pictures courtesy of GoodGym

After that I felt we picked up the pace and all of a sudden I felt I had rhythm, I was still in the middle of the pack but the runners in front were in my sights. Basically I left it too little too late I went with about 150 metres to go overtaking Ade (who I am sure could have caught me if she wished) and sprinting hard to the finish. I nearly caught Callum in front but he had a great sprint at the end as well.

My mile time was 6:12 and I think I finished 6th.


I will definitely be trying more track races in the future. With a bunch of good people it can make for a great way to vary your training and practice that extra kick at the end of a race. We ended the evening with fun 100 metre rely which I really enjoyed, although running fast around a corner was a strange experience. Afterwards we headed to a lovely pint in a great local pub, fun running with great people. All in all a perfect Friday evening.

If you have ran a mile race what was your time? How do you go about pacing yourself? With how far left do you normally accelerate? I would love to hear your stories and strategies.

Vegfest and Scott Jurek

Damien Clarkson and Scott Jurek

Yesterday I headed down to VegFest at London, Olympia. I have never been a big fan of these kind of events, always overcrowded and full of people selling you thinks you frankly don’t need. But this year Ultra Marathon legend Scott Jurek was one of the star attractions of the event and gave a number of talks over the course of the weekend.

Scott Jurek is probably the main inspiration behind my running journey so far. His running achievements include winning the following races  Hardrock Hundred (2007), the Badwater Ultramarathon (2005, 2006), the Spartathlon (2006, 2007, 2008), and the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (1999-2005).

He is also a vegan and has been since 1999, he believes his vegan diet is one of the main factors which has enabled him dominate ultra marathon running for the past decade.

This year Scott released his memoir Eat and Run a book I highly recommend which charts his unlikely rise to ultra marathon greatness and also gives you some of his favourite recipes for fuelling runs.

So yesterday I got to meet Scott, he was signing copies of his book and taken plenty of time to chat to everyone who came to see him. I have to say he was such a lovely guy he was genuinely interested in talking to us about being vegan our running, nutrition I even gave him a few vegetarian restaurant recommendations. I told Scott how I felt a lot of empathy with what he wrote in his book. His Mum died from multiple sclerosis which is a neurone disease similar to Motor Neurone Disease which my Dad died from and like Scott my Dad was also a bit of hard ass.

Sometimes you read about people or see them on TV then when you meet them in real life you’re disappointed. This wasn’t the case with Scott he was a great guy and I feel more inspired than ever.

Afterwards we watched Scott give a talk on nutrition which was really interesting, I will be doing his hydration test in a few weeks and I will let you know how I get on.

He also signed some inspiration in my copy of Eat and Run.

Eat and Run

Little inspirations

The Cool Impossible

Running opens our eyes to new experiences. These experiences always take different forms sometimes we learn about our body, other times our mind, I personally love discovering new surroundings in my local area.  In my mind every run is an ever evolving journey of discovery, the more I run the more I realise this. The prospect of what I might learn about myself and my surroundings in the coming years is filling me with excitement.

The prime example body wise for me has been my feet. When I was injured the first thing my physio did was to get me to take my shoes and socks off and balance on one leg. I wobbled, then I did the same thing on my left leg and I really wobbled. In my rehabilitation we talked a lot about feet and how have strong feet feeds into having strong muscles throughout your legs. Since then I have switched to Nike Free’s 5.0 which I find brilliant, the sensation of feeling my toes spring off when running was something I hadn’t felt since I quit playing football regularly 8 years ago.

I am like so many people I am someone who loved the book ‘Born to Run’. And today Eric Orton (the coach from Born to Run who took part in the race in the Copper Canyon and helped transform the running of the author Chris McDougall) new book ‘The Cool Impossible’, dropped through my door. I am only a couple of chapters through but his focus has already been on feet and achieving muscle equilibrium before my injury this was something I suffered with massively. I was totally one sided. I have worked had to address this and I know I still have work to do, so Eric’s training plan is filling me with excitement. Although the prospect of buying a slant board (basically a little wooden ramp) for $80 doesn’t so much. I think my very amateur DIY skills may get a run out. I actually found this great blog by Warrior Woman on how to make your own slant board if you also have read the book and wondered about making one.

Also this weekend I will be heading the VegFest the biggest vegetarian and vegan festival in the UK. I am excited about meeting and listening to talks from ultra-marathon legend and vegan Scott Jurek another star of Born to Run and 7-times winner of the prestigious Great Western States 100 mile race. I have read Scott’s new book ‘Eat and Run’, as a fellow vegan, a keen cook and someone who has also lost a parent to muscle wasting disease, I felt a lot of empathy with what Scott had to say. I highly recommend reading this book, if you want to achieve a life with running as an important part of it.

I have also seen these two videos today which I really enjoyed for two totally different reasons. But if you’re a runner I think you will love them as well.

Boston Men 2011 Men’s Winner Slow Motion

8 Stages of Marathon Running

It would be great to hear from other runners who are heading to Vegfest. And it would be great if readers could link me to your running inspirations. Whether they are videos, photos or books, I am always keen to learn from other runners.

London Marathon

London Marathon

Well I am not going to lie I did feel blue on receiving my London Marathon ballot application rejection last week. In fact I felt the Smurf was quite mocking, I wasn’t a fan as a kid and certainly I am not now, I would have much preferred a Womble.

Seeing several friends getting ballot places made me realise how much I had set my heart on running this event. I know there are loads of great marathons out there but having been along to watch the London Marathon it clearly has a special atmosphere.

I live in London, studied in Greenwich and I am originally from the outskirts of south east London. So the streets the London marathon explores are places I have grown up around.

However slowly over the past couple of days I have started to feel less despondent. I been lucky to spend time with some great friends and family and spoken to other friends online and they have encouraged me to apply for a charity place.

My friends and family are the reason I have had my heart set on doing the London Marathon. I remember the huge lift seeing friends and family gave me when I struggled around my Royal Parks half marathon 3 years ago. So I think that is what I am going to do, I am going to try and get a charity place. My Dad died from Motor Neurone Disease in 2011 and running the London Marathon in front of friends and family and fundraising for that charity is something I am sure he would have been proud of me for doing.

Training in the last week has been varied and enjoyable. I have started preparing for the Capital Runners Bushy Park 10k on the 20th October. I am looking at definitely ducking under the 48 minute mark and I hopeful of perhaps ducking under 46 minutes.

My recent 10k runs have have seen me exploring the beautiful Walthamstow and Hackney Marshes. Discovering new parts of your local area has to be one of my favourite things about running. I would love to hear about the most amazing places you have discovered whilst running, please leave comments or tweet me.