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

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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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