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

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.

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

Jantastic me!

Fruit haul

Hello! anyone there? Sorry for the silence the past week or so. I have been full of good new year intentions but clearly blogging lots hasn’t been one of them. Work has been slightly busier, I have also been making sure I see lots of friends but importantly I am back up and running pain free. Edinburgh is in my sights.

Running wise I am hoping the calf problem which ruined my December running behind me. To stay fit I have incorporated a much more rigorous stretching regime both pre and post run. I have also purchased a road bike and went spinning at London Fields Fitness again on Monday.  2014 is going to be the year when fitness and friends come together and I spent more time exploring beautiful places with friends outdoors and less time doing unhealthy things . This Sunday I am going out for a early morning 30 mile bike ride with my friend Luke and a bunch of his friends, I am pretty nervous about keeping up but I am sure it will be fun.

My running has been steady if unspectacular, the weather here in the UK has been insane. I have to admit I have generally been picking my times to run based on the weather predictions. Although I did go running at 6:46 in the morning the other week, this was unusual for me. I have to admit I really enjoyed the quietness of the run and it gave me a great chance at recording a good time on the London Fields 400 metre dash on Strava. I have been really enjoying Strava of late, it is great to see what other runners are doing in your local area. I decided to have a dash at running the stretch fast, I managed to just squeeze into the top 10 on the Strava leader board. I love knowing where challenges are on my routes and having a dash and running them fast.

London Fields 400 metre dash

Get on Strava it is free and a great way to add a bit of extra fun into your runs. 

I have also been on the hunt for great fruit as per usual, I am keeping up my consumption of around 70 bananas a week. My girlfriend and I have resorted to buying whole boxes of bananas from our local market. Although I am not sure how many more times I can carry 19 kg for bananas over a mile.

In this video check out how Kasia and I got on hunting for new fruit.

I also went to GoodGym this week, if you haven’t heard of GoodGym it is a great way to run and help make your community a better place. It is now in 4 locations in London and is growing all the time. This week we had 25 runners at Hackney GoodGym who helped clear a pathway at an allotment. On the way up I ran at the back (we make sure no one runs alone) and on the way back I led us home running leading us back at spritely pace. I love running back from GoodGym there is always a little bit of fun competition for those of us near the front.

I have signed up to the Marathon Talk’s Jantastic.me challenge with a few other GoodGym members, I love being part of a little running community of do-gooders, it is a really special thing. I only have set myself a modest Jantastic target of 3 runs a week for the next couple of weeks until I start my marathon training plan.

I am 19 weeks away and I am thinking about following either 18 or 16 week marathon plan. If you have any plan recommendations please put them in the comments below.

As always thanks for reading and keeping running, we were born to do this.

Damien x

Flexibility

Spinning
‘Flexibility’, in every sense of the word is something all runners have to master. Our running requires our constant love and attention, it demands that we work on our form, strengthen our core, be flexible with our social arrangements, stretch our muscles and push our bodies. And yet despite the occasional injuries and moments of anguish ‘running’ is a kind, benevolent hobby which gives us runners so much. For me it is the little things, the beautiful sunsets, the interaction with animals, the friendly morning greetings from dog walkers, the discovery of new areas in the place I have lived for years. And the simple satisfaction of moving my body, feeling the sweat on my brow and speeding places quickly. Put simply I love it, I am a running addict.

But December has been a hard month for my running. On the 1st December I had my disappointing Ashford Half Marathon (I finished) where I pulled my calf muscle badly. This led to a 19 day lay off from running until this Friday where I finally was able to get back out there putting in a nice steady 5.3 mile run with my friend Clare and her dog Watson. This month has required me to be flexible in order to stay on top of my fitness, with Christmas around the corner it would have been easy to slip back into bad habits.

The injury has forced me to be flexible about how I keep fit. Running is my number one sport of choice which I usually top up by commuting locally on my bike. My minimal amount of cycling wasn’t going to be enough to keep me feeling great. So I decided to go swimming again. I have to be honest I find swimming  hard work, I try to space out but I find it relatively boring but I afterwards I always feel great. I am going to try and make sure I go to the pool more regularly in 2014.

I also went spinning at London Fields Fitness Studio. My only previous spinning class was 7 years ago in David Lloyd gym and it was not an enjoyable experience, very eye of the tiger music wise. The vibe at London Fields Fitness located in a railway arch was chilled the lights were low and the instructor Manya was great. I couldn’t believe how much I was sweating. I looked up after 15 minutes and I remember thinking how the hell am I going to keep going for another 30 minutes but I did and I loved it. Everyone was sweating and smiling as they left the studio and at £10 a class it offers great value and an alternative way for me to keep fit.

Today I cycled in the pouring rain to Shoreditch to take part in a dynamic stretch class at Frame with my friend and runner Sam (she has a great running blog). I first heard about Frame on Kelsey (Running on Coffee blog). I was by far the least flexible person in the class, the instructor picked up that is was my tight hamstrings holding me back. But after yesterdays run I was feeling a slight tightness in my calf and this disappeared after the class. I think increased flexibility in my body, my  training plans and my approach to running is going to be the key for staying fit and running fast in 2014.

I am also putting a lot of time into my YouTube channel, please subscribe and give me feedback on the videos. If you want me to talk about a running/nutrition related topic just let me know.

Damien x

A runners journey

Stretching before the race

This is a story of a talent lost and a long slow journey to get running fast again.

As a teenager I was quick! I am not talking super quick but the quickest kid in pretty much every football team I played in. Running was just something I did whilst playing football and to a lesser extent cricket. I remember having a real ability to run 400 and 800 metres fast and PE teachers telling me I should start taking athletics seriously and I would be able to run for the county. To cut a long story short I wasn’t interested, I just wanted to chase a football around.

When I moved to London over 4 years ago I quickly realised I was piling on weight and not living a particularly healthy lifestyle. This coupled with my Dad being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease prompted me to sign up for a half marathon. At this point I couldn’t even run 5k without stopping. So I signed up to do the Royal Parks Half Marathon in 2010, I did fair bit of plodding running and definitely achieved an ok level of fitness.

Well the half marathon was a disaster, my knee was in terrible shape and I had terrible shoes and an awful running style. I dragged my arse around in 2:17, fading badly as blisters covered both of my feet. Poor preparation and injuries left me feeling crippled. I just couldn’t face running again. About 6 months later I started cycling and this replaced running as the exercise to keep myself in shape. Around this time I started trying to run again but again I was plagued with injury and couldn’t get into any sort of routine.

In February this year I decided to head out for a run. I plodded around huffing and puffing but I did 3.7 miles. At this point I decided I had to improve this situation and started going out for 4-5k runs a few times a week. Around this time I joined a great running/volunteering project called GoodGym. I found this to be a really inspiring community of likeminded people, who enjoy running and helping their community.

Sadly after 6 weeks came down with an inflamed Achilles. This felt like a disaster. A month went by and I saw the good work of the previous couple of months slip away- around this time I decided to go and see a sports physio called Helen at her clinic Fix. This was eye opening for me; it revealed how I was essentially carrying my left hand side of my body and showed me how much weaker my left hand side of my body was.

I then embarked on a slow recovery that mixed strengthening exercises with gradually starting to run again. Around this time I read a number of books including ‘Born To Run’.  After seeking advice from my physio I purchased a air of Nike Free 5.0 and started to learn to run without my Brooks moonboots. Gradually I have built my fitness back up and I am really starting to see results. I have been running again for 2 months and I am injury free (see a full blog on this here) And I am running faster than I have done in 10 years. Running in neutral/minimal shoes has worked really well for me. I love feeling the ground when I am running it has led to me developing a much stronger technique and slowly I have started to trust my body again.

Highlights in the past couple of weeks have included the GoodGym 5k race along the embankment which despite steps and dodging tourists I managed 23:35 coming 3rd overall in my race and I was the fastest Hackney runner. Then this week running 6.31 miles (just over 10k) in 46:13 followed the next day by 3.91 miles in 24:06.

However yesterday I went out for run and really struggled with an average pace of 8:15 min per mile over 3.39 miles.  I suppose that will happen sometimes. The two really pacey runs this week followed a fruit breakfast and carb light lunch with a 2 hour break before setting out for a run in late afternoon.

I am currently paying really close attention to how I perform at certain times in the day. I have also just started making fruit smoothies for breakfast. I am finding these great for ensuring I am getting enough fruit in my diet. I have found that my increased fruit intake in recent weeks has led to me feeling more hydrated than usual. Has anyone else experimented with fruit only breakfasts when training and if so what have the results been?

I am also doing my first Park Run this week and I will be delighted if I finish in the top 10.

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