What has running taught me?

Eat and Run

When I first went for a run in February it had been 2 and half years since my only half marathon a lumbering 2:17 at the Royal Parks Half. I was fed up of feeling unfit it was a bright winters day and my trainers were calling me. I huffed and I puffed and I certainly wasn’t blowing any houses down. But I kept at it, I went for a few runs with my friend Lauren and then after about a month of slow running I started going to GoodGym and slowly but surely the running got easier. I was enjoying it.

Despite a injury hiccup which was a great learning experience thanks to some first class physio my progress as a runner has been swift. I have started racing and although my overall placings are amazing as of yet I am in the top 25% of runners in all my races so far. 

My running journey has taught me a lot about myself a person, my body and how I can get the most from it. I truly believe switching from a vegetarian to a vegan diet has I believe been a key element in enabling me to ramp up my training, improve my pace and stay injury free. 

So what has running taught me?

1) I like a little moan early into my runs: I am either too tired, I feel stiff, its the wind, I feel to cold, I got my layering wrong. There is always something bugging me, generally I start enjoying my runs at around mile 3. Which if it is a 5k means I enjoy roughly the last 200 metres.

2) I am still a competitive person: I used to play lots of football and cricket but in general life, work, business, status,  I don’t consider myself competitive. But put me in a race and from the moment I get the starting line, I want to do the best I can possibly do and get as close to winning as possible.

3) Every run teaches you something: Whether you learn about your body or what is going on inside your head or your surroundings. It is the sport of natures voyeurs you always can spy something interesting happening in the nature around you.

4) I am a geek: I knew this but running has definitely reaffirmed this. I am growingly obsessed with split times and I have become very concerned with how training and my diet can squeeze extra %’s out of my running potential.

5) Running is social: I always thought of running as a solitary activity but being part of GoodGym, taking part in races and writing this blog has connected me with so many interesting people. I am making new running friends every week, their stories and training always inspires me.

6) Vegan for the win: Well the 17th place in my case currently. Anyway following a high carbohydrate low fat vegan diet has helped me lose a few extra pounds I was carrying and enabled me to recover remarkably well. I am continuing to stay injury free and improve my speed.

7) The staff in Sweatshop know nothing: If you want some decent running advice seek out ‘Runners Needs’, both the staff in the shops in Moorgate or Aldgate know their stuff.

8) A huge part of running is in the head: During a race I skip through so many scenarios from what happens if I can’t run up that hill, I panic about tripping people up, I doubt I can even get around the course. Then finally comes acceptance at around mile 3 that I am doing pretty well and this is great fun. I am still a nervy sports person, I always was when I was younger and I still take awhile to calm down.

9) I am rubbish at following training plans: I have looked at so many plans, different interval sessions, fartleks etc, I still haven’t managed to many focused sessions. My options generally are run fast or take it easy and keep things consistent. I know to progress I need to change this but for now I am happy listening to my body and just going with the flow.

10) Do what works for you: I am guilty of giving my point of view but what works for different people will be different. There is so much contradictory advice. So listen to people try things out but you can’t follow everyones advice. Just rock your own path is my advice.

As Scott Jurek wrote when I met him in October ‘You know the path follow it!”.

PB’s

5k 21:04 Hackney Marsh ParkRun

10K 47:31 Greenwich Park 10k

Follow me on Twitter @damienclarkson

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.