New Blog and Future Running Crew

damien kettlebell
Hello lovely readers,

This post is a little update to tell you that I am winding down this blog. But I have a new place for my writing www.damienclarkson.com, where I will be writing more broadly about my life, politics, cycling, environment and yes still running, veganism and health and fitness, please come over and say hi.

Just to bring you up to speed. Over the past few months, I have been rehabbing my muscle tightness after the Edinburgh Marathon and embarking on physio. I am making progress but still definitely at a point where I have a lot of tension in my legs. As a result I am running less, around 10 miles a week and mixing it up with cycling, swimming and a bespoke circuits style class with my friend Kate in London Fields called, Pump, Sweat and Burn.

This blog has been a massive source of inspiration and support for me. Without it I don’t think I would be where I am now, which is basically the fittest, slimmest and healthiest I have been in a decade. You comments literally hundreds of them got me through so many tough moments. And I just want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You’re kind people putting love into the world and that is a powerful thing.

One last thing tomorrow I am doing some unique. I am curating a 5km run mixed with a protest about the need to tackle climate change as part of The Future’s day of protest through yoga, running, meditation and dance. Which will take place in NYC, Berlin, LA, Sydney, San Fran, Paris and London as world leaders will meet at a special UN Summit on climate change.

I have long been involved in the environmental movement and to combine these two things I love is really exciting for me. We’re meeting at Parliament Square in Westminster at 7:45pm. This is the event, please come and join me and The Future to call for urgent action on climate change and sweat a little bit.

And I hope to see you all over on my new blog www.damienclarkson.com soon.

So I am alive but kinda injured

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Well… I am not dead or crippled after the trauma of my Edinburgh marathon. But I am injured enough that I have been instructed to not run by the physio.

So what is wrong with me? The list goes something like this:

1) Incredibly tight IT bands both sides

2) Very tight hamstrings both sides (right slightly worse than left)

3) Lack of hip flexibility both sides

4) A moderate case of patello-femoral syndrome my knee not tracking properly over my femur (thigh bone)

This means from last week 6-8 weeks before I can run again.

So as you can probably tell by my tone, I am slightly frustrated, after seeing everyone who ran Run Hackney with their shiny medals, I felt the need to rant and put this down on virtual paper, I hope you don’t mind.

The good news is I can swim and cycle, so I am trying to see this as an opportunity to improve my all round strength and set myself up for completing some triathlons this Winter.

The past week has seen me cycle 40 miles to Richmond Park which was so beautiful and a cyclists paradise. This weekend four of us cycled 25 miles to a pick your own fruit farm in Enfield and came alway with a bounty of delicious fruit and veggies.

That being said sometimes running is a cruel mistress, she teases you with tantalising delights only to pull them away at the last moment. For me this means the most beautiful running months of the year are lost, I hope to come back and run some good 5K and 10K times in late August/September and hopefully squeeze in a half marathon and a couple of Sprint distance triathlons before Winter arrives. In the meantime if you want to come cycling with me let me know.

And a lastly a massive congratulations to my friends who completed the Hackney Half today in the sweltering heat. Especially my friend Clare Foster who recorded a stunning 1:36. Also a massive well done to Helen Nickols, Richard Foster, Phillip Oliver and Jasmine Morris and everyone from GoodGym who made it round in the scorching heat.

Damien

I did it! I joined the marathon club before turning 30

Damien looking shattered

Well that was emotional but I did it. I ran a marathon before turning 30. However it wasn’t to be a glorious 3:45 marathon debut my training had pointed to but a real test of my ability to endure. Before the race my friend Nick told me that no matter what happens on the day remember the journey you have been on and the great experiences you have had whilst out training. I had to cling to words like those during the race as I stumbled across the line in a disappointing 4:26:12.

Edinburgh Marathon Race Report 

We headed up to  Edinburgh by train on Friday, after some drama with the tickets we got there and headed to our Airbnb in Leith to stay with the lovely Janet. Being at Janet’s reminded me of my Mum’s, it was pretty untidy but full of beautiful pictures and interesting books and cats, Janet has great taste.

Kasia and Damien

We failed to consider that Edinburgh might be pretty packed and it was freezing and wet, so after being turned down by our restaurant of choice we spotted a Pizza Express and I finally tried their new vegan pizza which went down brilliantly. Saturday saw plenty of resting and a little trip into town.

In the evening Kasia and I had the pleasure of hanging with Kayleigh and Tim. I met Kayleigh by chance whilst she was watching the London Marathon with her London running club the Mornington Chasers. We have a friend in common Hannah and realised we were running the same marathon, so we agreed to meet up. We went to David Banns and most of us had fantastic vegan food (Kasia’s wasn’t good) and a night of wonderful conversation. Both Kayleigh and Tim are more experienced runners than me and gave me loads of advice. This was just another example of how running has helped me make new brilliant friends.

Race Day

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I woke up to rain after a surprisingly good sleep, slipped into my running kit, ate my 3 Weetabix and drank a pint of water. We headed to the race start with plenty of time to spare and stood around shivering in the rain for a bit. But after starting to warm up I felt the race nerves fade away. I met up with Kayleigh, we had similar target times and agreed to run together for as long as possible.

ready to go

Tim (2:53 PB) had advised us the night before to start really slow: “Think as the first 5k as a warm up”. This made perfect sense and despite the downhill we started really slow, just at a lovely cruising pace. During the first half of the race we made our way out of Edinburgh and along the windswept coast, the sea and coastline looked beautiful, it was definitely rugged and the strong headwind was a challenge, But as we left the city we were met with some beautiful views. Runners were jostling for position on the inside to shield themselves from the battering winds blowing across us. I joined in this game trying to get myself as close to the inside as possible.

In the first half of the race I chatted to a guy called Paul from Birmingham who has ran over 150 marathons. He did his first one when he was also 29 to do one before turning 30 and never stopped. I remember him saying that his first one went badly wrong and he ended up at around 4:30. I remember thinking that is never going to be happening to me as we chatted away merrily till about mile 11. I carried on having lost contact with Kayleigh by this point but I was happy and feeling very much in control.

Then the wheels fell off in a dramatic way…

These were my splits at mile 13:

first half splits

half marathon

All of a sudden at mile 13 my right knee tightened and every step felt like someone was hitting me in the knee with a hammer. Writing this a few days later think it was my IT band that failed me. I have been plagued by flexibility issues and during the race they all flared up all together in one big perfect storm of pain. After dropping my pace by well over a minute a mile between 13 and 14, I was despairing. I called Kasia to tell her my knee had gone and my race was effectively over. At this point I was still on for a 3:40 marathon debut but I just knew and my words were “I will finish but it will be more like 4:30”.

I then proceeded to go through a whole roller coaster of emotions. The injury meant I couldn’t drive my right knee through. I decided to switch to a shuffle essentially, by opening my feet like a duck, I could move so that my knee didn’t kill. The problem was that this started to stress other parts of my body, the walls really came tumbling down.

The running part of this race was over, I had literally gone from gliding to hobbling in the space of a mile. This hadn’t happened in 5 runs over this distance in training. It had been 20 miles in Poland before I slowed down to 10 minutes a mile, but here I was at mile 14 basically struggling to keep it there.

second half

The next phase was all about mental resilience. Paul glided past me, his words “I am going to slow down otherwise I will pay for it later” rattled around my head. I hobbled along until mile 19 then it really fell to pieces. This was the part of the race where there were sparse crowds. My hamstrings had decided to join the pain party and completely tightened up. I was left cursing myself for not stretching more or getting involved in yoga.

From this point onwards it was a shuffle/run walk affair with stretching every half a mile and a bit of walking. Cardio wise I felt fine, I was actually a little bit cold once the sun went in as I was moving so much slower than I am accustomed to.

During these dark moments as my ego was taking a crushing my mind wondered to some interesting places. My thoughts drifted to hearing two time Ironman Champion Chris McCormack talk about walking in Ironman races. Rich Roll taking part in his first Ultraman and employing a walk 1 mile, run 1 mile strategy. Dave Scott’s form collapsing and pace dropping from 6 minute miles to 10 minute miles when he was overtaken after 24 miles running neck and neck in the final miles of the 1989 Ironman (The Iron War) but still chased Mark Allen in hope he still might fade..

I felt humbled, I felt like a baby, an arrogant baby having a sulk in my head because my body shut down and taught me to respect the marathon distance. I really felt like my pacing strategy was fine. I was running the same pace as my second longest training run and slightly faster than my Poland run but it was just total collapse. I didn’t feel hungry or thirsty just tight, my movements were totally constricted.

Being passed by thousands of runners was a hard experience for me to take. My second half of the marathon was a whole 1:36 slower than my first half 1:50 with it taking a total of 2:36. Possibly the worst negative split in history, perhaps the hard hill runs I had done to Hampstead hollowed out my legs, perhaps the move, the illness, not getting above 20 miles since my 21.7 (3:15) training run in Poland had done for me.

Whatever it was it hurt, it hurt real bad in my legs and in my head. Perhaps I had delusions of grandeur, just because I can run a 1:50 half marathon with ease doesn’t mean I can do a sub 4 marathon. I don’t know.

I can honestly say that the crowd were amazing on the way back into Musselburgh the last couple of miles saw people shouting great encouragement and anyone who was there cheering us on I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

As we arrived into the finish, I managed to string together a mile of shuffle run heading towards the line I felt a sense of relief wash over me. I couldn’t wait to see Kasia as it had been nearly 3 hours since I had talked to anyone (no one wants to talk to the person they are overtaking).

But I did it, I crossed the line in 4:26:12, I joined the marathon club before I turned 30. At the end of the day, that is what I originally set out to do back when I started this blog in September.

It wasn’t the result I was hoping for but now the dust is settling I am pretty sure I will run another marathon, perhaps in the Autumn if not in 2015 for sure. For now I want to focus on shorter races, I have the Hackney Half Marathon in a months time and I want to start doing some ParkRun’s and focus on completing my first triathlon.

Honestly although the marathon hurt me mentally and physically I can honestly say that journey towards it changed my life for the better. At 29 I am fitter and healthier than I have been since I was 21. I have discovered a way to explore my surroundings and calm my mind.

I have come to realise that sometimes in running like life in general things don’t work out as we planned. However that doesn’t mean they are not worthwhile experiences, every bit of mental and physical anguish I experienced in the Edinburgh Marathon will help me become a better runner and hopefully a better person in the future.

And to you the reader. Thanks for coming here and supporting me on this journey. The blog will continue as will the YouTube channel, I feel drawn towards triathlon at the moment and will be writing about my ventures into that world. You have been the best and anyone who has commented or interacted with me on this blog or on YouTube or Twitter, you have enhanced my life and I will be forever grateful to you for that.

And to all my friends who have supported me throughout this journey especially my girlfriend Kasia Ring for being super supportive and enduring my endless run chat. I also couldn’t have done this without all the following people.

My Mum for being a brilliant person and inspiring me everyday by being a wonderful person. My brother Adam for his words of encouragement and support with whatever I pursue.  My regular training partner Clare Foster and her dog Watson, you both got me through some grim winter runs.  Joe Phillips, especially for that 10 miler,  Nick Jones for wise words and inspiring me the seek challenges. Kate Stewart for the regular words of wisdom and the spin classes. Sam Sparrow for being super solid friend and setting a great example of how to get your training done. Helen at Fix for mending me and Kierra Hautala (old housemate and also at Fix) for the great advice on stretching and impromptu massages. Ade Adoabe for the amazing PT and counselling and inspiration. Ivo Gormley for the words of encouragement and creating GoodGym. Lauren Garland, meeting you in Platform 15 months ago set me on this course and those first difficult runs with you helped set me on the right path for which I am forever grateful. My friend Aimee Harrison for getting me to do that Bushy Park 10k and giving me loads of advice along the way. My old school friends John Rendle and Peter Flexman for running the Greenwich Park 10k, you both will be coming running with me again soon. All the vegan fruit bats for rooting for me and Rich Roll, Durian Rider and Scott Jurek for being an inspiration. And everyone else who supported and inspired me along the way.

My race stats can be found on Strava

I would love to hear from anyone reading this blog. How do I recover from this marathon? My legs are shot to pieces, where did I go wrong with my training? You can find all my training over on Strava, as always your support and advice is massively valued. 

Running inspiration on World Book Day

ImageToday is World Book Day! With the boom in the popularity of running, the advent of YouTube and more satellite sports channels, there are more great running books than ever.

To celebrate World Book Day, I have decided to list a couple of the running books which has inspired me.

Born To Run

No surprise here. The story sees Injury prone runner and journalist Chris McDougall goes in search of an elusive figure in the ultra marathon world Caballo Blanco (White Horse). His journey takes him  the Copper Cannons the home of the worlds greatest long distance runners the Tarahumara. Chris explores the secrets of the Tarahumara, the history of ultra-running and science behind barefoot running. A group of the worlds greatest ultra runners end up in the Copper Cannons taking place in the greatest race the world has ever seen, this book includes vegan ultra running legend Scott Jurek.

Finding Ultra

Rich Roll was 40 years old, unfit, unhappy in his career as a lawyer and a secret alcoholic. After his 40th birthday he decided this was going to change. He embarked on a remarkable journey which sees him adopt a vegan diet and take part in Ultraman, basically IronMan x3, his journey is a remarkable one and essentially reading for anyone wanting to do something extraordinary.

Eat and Run

Scott Jurek is a legend in the ultra marathon world, he won the prestigious Great Western States 100 mile race 7-times in a row and the Badwater ultra marathon through Death Valley twice. He discusses his upbringing and unlikely running journey. Scott went Vegan in 1999 and believes this has played a key role in ability to recover and run harder for longer.

Running with the Kenyans

This book sees British author Adharanand Finn go and train alongside the aspiring runners in Kenya. He reveals their training secrets and he goes on a barefoot running journey of discovery.

What I talk about when I talk about running

A runners classic, Murakami talks about what drives him to run, why running matters to him and how it enables him to write. A brilliant book which will make you look into yourself and explore the reasons you run.

If you decide to buy these books, please do through using the links in the titles above. The money will go to funding the Rich Roll Podcast as I have used his affiliate links.

What are your favourite running books? Drop me a tweet or comment below. Happy reading and running!

Long miles with a great friend

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Running with friends is the best! Ok, not quite as good as the post run carb fest I usually embark on but it comes in a mighty close second place.

This Saturday marathon training got real for Damien. I had to run for 1:20 hour and I was dreading it. I had asked my amazing friend Joe Phillips to come along with me and although he plays football goes to the gym and has ran some impressive half marathons in the past; he hadn’t ran over 10k in nearly 18 months. So to be honest I wasn’t sure he would make it. But on Saturday morning the sun was shining and Joe messaged me to say he was coming for the run.

We ran to Walthamstow Marsh, along the lea valley river, Hackney Marsh, onto Regents Canal, through Victoria Park, dragged ourselves through London Fields where all our discussions turned to what we were going to eat when we got in and finally made it back to mine with 10 miles in the bag in 1:28.15

Joe was a total hero and a true friend to not moan about my 8 minute over calculation but hey, what is a mile between friends?

Afterwards we embarked on eating some delicious organic bananas before heading to the Vegan cafe the Black Cat to thoroughly carb up and enjoy ourselves.

I am lucky to have a few lovely friends who run with me and hopefully this will be the first of many amazing runs with Joe.

Love Run 10k + marathon training update

Damien Clarkson after the Love Run 10k  (picture by Ivo Gormley)

Damien Clarkson after the Love Run 10k (picture by Ivo Gormley)

Whisper it quietly but I think the pissing wind that has plagued runners for months might have disappeared. Bring on the Spring! Or at the very least some cold and dry weather.

In just 13 weeks and 2 days I will have completed my first marathon. Currently I feel the Edinburgh marathon is looming above my head like a giant zeppelin about to drop a bombardment of ruined feet, shattered hamstrings and chaffed legs.

You would think that following a 16 week plan would leave me brimming with confidence. But boy would you be wrong. I have realised marathon training is hardcore, the sheer amount of miles, the tight muscles, the lack of sleep and destruction of your social life. These are all key elements of marathon training. And I have just taken a work contract at Government Digital Services. And although this is a superbly flexible forward thinking workplace, I am going to be spending more of my time tied to a desk not able to just drop my work and go running when the mood takes me. Scary!

So you would be right in thinking that I am struggling to hit my target miles at the moment. Last week I completed just 16 miles but this did include recording a new PB in the Finsbury Park Love Run 10k. Powered by a 8 banana smoothie, I kept my record of recording a PB in every race since I started writing this blog back in September. I recorded a chip time of 46:13 coming in 53rd out of 293 runners.

Damien Clarkson running the Love Run 10k  (picture by Ivo Gormley)

If you went out running last Saturday you will know how crazy the wind was. Everyone who took part in that race last Saturday or just went for a run anywhere deserves huge credit. It was literally insane, so much so that I got blown to a literal stop running for the finish line.

I was running with team GoodGym last Saturday. Everyone of us put in a wholehearted performance and super speedy Shaun Dixon won the race at a canter. GoodGym Founder, Ivo Gormley took some wonderful pictures I have shamefully borrowed for the site (thanks Ivo) and in other exciting news GoodGym is now an affiliated UK athletics running club. As if you needed another reason to come along and take a look if you live in London. I am already dreaming of the wicking t-shirt I am going to be able to buy with my cumulative £2 pound race entry savings.

I also made a video of the race below. Please give it a watch and perhaps give it a like and subscribe.


What else happened in the last 2 weeks. Well my Garmin 210 decided to stop working, meaning I lost 3 very average miles on Strava. Luckily I was able to exchange it for a new watch today, hopefully this Garmin lasts more than 4 months.

I am also just about the enter the Hackney Half Marathon at the end of June. I am so excited about running the streets of the area I have lived in for the past 4 years. I would love it if you came and ran this race with me.

Screenshot 2014-02-21 19.20.25

If you are training for a marathon how is it going? How do you squeeze the miles in? Also does anyone have an April half marathon they would recommend?

Tomorrow I will be running for 1:20 hr taking my weekly mileage up to around 18 miles. 13 weeks to go, I am nervous but still just about optimistic.

Damien

January when champions are made

After the 1 mile time trial

We’re now approaching the end of January. The Christmas present trainers are muddy and the new year resolution runners lacking in commitment have disappeared from our streets. January is the when champions are made. Ok, well Spring marathon runners at the very least.

This week has seen me continue on my comeback from injury clocking up a happy 12.7 miles running. I highly recommend kicking off the week with a Monday run, I know this isn’t exactly a ground shattering revelation but I honestly believe running early in the week is the key to ticking off your mileage target.

Embracing the unpredictable weather is in my mind also key to happy January running. I like to think of huge puddles as a fun obstacle and focus on the fact that in freezing cold weather you burn fat quicker; equalling me becoming a lighter faster runner on race day.

On Tuesday I ran with GoodGym Hackney, we were working with the brilliant charity Streetbank delivering flyers in the areas their members live. I had heard about Streetbank before and it was great to find out more about the work they do getting neighbours to help each other out by lending each other useful items or skill swapping. The run was incredibly enjoyable and again we had a huge turnout (I think the biggest Hackney GoodGym run). It is always great to meet other runners in my local area and because of the nature of GoodGym e.g. doing good in the local community the people who come along are always incredibly interesting.

Ade the GoodGym trainer also set us a purely running challenge to run a 1 mile circuit of London Fields. I was annoyingly busting to wee but I thought I would give it a decent go, after a few laps it was clear if I wanted to be the first to finish I would need to run faster than my body was physically up to. A 35 mile cycle on the Sunday and 4 runs in 5 days had taken its toll. Despite that I still was one of the first runners to finish recording a 6:28 mile. We will be running this lap again in 8 weeks, I will be in marathon training then and it would be great to bring that time down and go below the 6:12 mile I ran back in October.

On Friday morning I went running with my friend Clare and her dog Watson. Clare is a great running partner and I always enjoy our chats and Watson is just great fun in his never ending search for the biggest possible stick he can carry. I proceeded to go straight from my 4 and half mile run to my first personal training session with Ade (mentioned earlier).

On the way to the personal training, I smashed a PB on a 400 metre dash in London Fields, I love this Strava challenge it is on my way home and always motivates me to have a dash beating my PB. I was so delighted to get an 8th place on the all time challenge leader board jumping two places recording a 1.25 on the dash. I would urge everyone to get on Strava, it is great way to add a little excitement to even runs when you don’t feel at your best.

London Fields 400 metre dash

8th place on the all time leaderboard

8th place on the all time leaderboard

With hindsight running before a personal training session wasn’t my wisest decision. As well as leading the Hackney GoodGym group, Ade runs a personal training business called Fit City with a special focus on exploring the urban architecture of London through running. However this Friday we were in London Fields Fitness studios and Ade was putting me through my paces with a core and cardio workout. And boy did she make me sweat, Ade is tough but very fair and a real pleasure to train with. We did lots of different core exercises, lunges, boxing and some running, I enjoyed the session immensely.

The good news from the session is that my core isn’t too bad however there is room for improvement and I will be working with Ade in the coming weeks to strengthen this area up before starting my Edinburgh Marathon training at the start of February.

Ade also filmed my running and there has been massive improvements in my form, the arms are swinging better and feet are very close to striking straight underneath me. I will be working with Ade in the coming weeks to improve this. Any tips on running form are much appreciated, please comment below I honestly appreciate any help.

Next week I promise to do a blog on nutrition as a vegan, I have found that since switching from a vegetarian to a vegan diet last June my running and overall health as come on leaps and bounds. 

And remember we are half way through the Winter, keep finding pleasures in Winter running and before you know it Spring will be in the air along with those race PB’S. 

Thanks for popping by as always.

Damien x