What to buy your Runner for Christmas

With eleven days of shopping left it is time to start thinking seriously about your most favourite person. If they have earned that accolade, and you are reading this blog, then they are most likely a Runner. “But what does one buy a runner for Christmas?” I hear you cry. Read on and I shall soon have your runner’s Christmas sorted.

The risky choice: Trainers

There is no one size fits all approach to running (despite what some race organisers would have you believe with their race tents, I mean shirts) and nothing is more personal to a runner than their trainers. If you know the person intimately, perhaps even share a house with them, then the task should be fairly easy – simply pop a peg on your nose and start rummaging through their festering pile of trainers. Find a label on the tongue and get the size. Now half the battle is won.

If not covered in mud then you can hopefully even find a brand and model name on the side of said trainer and this is where the fun really begins. Start scouring the interwebs and you’ll discover that particular model is now 8 iterations removed or, worse still, discontinued altogether. You’ll also find a vast difference in price too, so all I can say if you choose to go the trainer route is: “good luck!”

If you’re not sure which ones to go for, then may I please recommend the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante, without a doubt my favourite shoe.

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante
Fresh Foam Zante – Photo © New Balance

The practical choice: Love

If you love your Runner, and particularly if you have a vested interest in the comfort of their under regions then perhaps buy them the gift of comfort and glide. BodyGlide to be precise.

If they use it already they’ll be grateful that someone else is forking out for this life-saver, and if they don’t they may well come back from their first run with it having found a new level of affection for you.

Win-win.

Bodyglide - first thing in the kit bag!
Ahhh. Relief

In a similar vein, head over to eBay and simply purchase an industrial pack of plasters. They’ll know what they’re for.

OOOOOWWWWWWWW

The injured runner: Recovery

Books might be a sensible option here; there are, of course, a wonderful array of excellent titles to choose from. However, there is an inherent risk here that you make the Runner even grumpier by enforcing them to sit in the warm and dry and read about the fells rather than it in the snow running on them.

Instead, how about purchasing the Yoga Studio app for their device of choice and encourage them to strengthen all the wonky bits that are resulting in injury in the first place. This app had a wealth of excellent yoga programmes available including a whole bunch of stretch routines designed specifically for runners which begin at just 5 minutes long.

I have been using this app for about six months now and trying to get in a 15-minute session at least every other day. I also haven’t been injured in all that time. Coincidence?

bendy

The crafty choice: Art

No doubt your Runner wants to brag about their achievements, and you have a couple of options to choose from.

Pin a medal on the wall

A lovely way to display the hard-earned medals. There are a great many styles and shapes to go for, but this is the place to start.

Print it and frame it

Maybe make a nice print of your Runner’s favourite race. Classics like the Great North Run or the London Marathon are available on colours to suit any decor

Sisu is an alternative, and arguably more personal, option as it can take the Strava information of your favourite Runner (and if they aren’t on Strava surely they can’t call themselves a runner). This then enables you to create a one-off print of a favourite run or event or can create a visual feast of the whole year’s running.

Immortalise EPIC in 3D

This is particularly awesome if your Runner has done something suitably epic in terms of hillage. You can get a 3D printed elevation of a route created from GPS files.

The reader: Knowledge

A magazine is almost always going to be a safe bet. But which one?

No imagination?

If you, or indeed your Runner, have no imagination then you might like to pick up a copy of Runners World. Any edition will do; the training advice will be the same and an article about nutrition will like follow Tim Noakes original advice in the Lore of Running, which he has since admitted was way off the mark! So save some money and pick up a cheap copy from eBay.

A little bit sexist?

Then there is a Men’s or Women’s Running magazine for you. Evidently, someone thinks the different sexes put one foot in front of the other so differently that wholly separate magazines are required.

The nerd?

Is your Runner a statto? Are they interested in the wider range of running and other affiliated accoutrements? Then hit them up with a subscription to Athletics Weekly; as it says on the tin, it offers a weekly roundup of all the goings-on in the athletics world. Marvelous.

The soul-searcher

If your Runner is not looking for information about how to run; they’re a runner, they understand it’s a simple task – but instead they are seeking enlightenment and answers to life’s big question: “Why We Run?” then simply subscribe them to the wonderful Like The Wind magazine. If they already have that box ticked, and let’s face it, why wouldn’t they? then perhaps try The Journal from Proper Adventure as a suitable alternative.

More money than sense: Splurge

Back on shoes – that risky choice – but the product of some hefty science can surely only give us a hefty price tag. The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% might cost nigh-on £200 but at just £50 per 10.48 miles, it’s guaranteed* to make your number one Runner go fast.

No money: Give ’em something proper good

Just send them in the direction of the Ginger Runner YouTube channel and wish them a Merry Christmas. They’ll love it, and probably you too!

*Nike don’t offer this actual guarantee (unless you are in fact Eliud Kipchoge)

Putney 10km – a review

Putney 10m Running to the finish

It was rather last minute (I submitted my entry just 10 days before the race) but The Putney 10km potentially offered the final chance to break 40 minutes for the distance in 2017.  Suddenly available to run races on a Sunday with a clear conscience (swimming lessons have been changed) I scoured the web for a chance to run fast in one last attempt.  About ready to give up I stumbled across the Putney 10km on the RunUK website.  Not a company I had heard of, I looked into the race and came up lacking much information. Sod it, I thought, and I hit enter on my application form.

In the week running up to the race I received a perfunctory email regarding basic event details and it was a case of collecting race numbers and timing chips on the day.  Keen to not miss the race I made sure I had made a note of the full address for Barn Elms Sports Centre, and studied the Google map telling me how to get there.

As such, despite a night of poor sleep thanks to a coughing child and a morning spent in the darkness thanks to a power cut, I left early and made good progress up the A3 past Richmond and Wimbledon and into Putney.  I parked easily because I was nice and early and set off across the building site that currently masquerades as the Barn Elms Sports centre.  Unaware of the actual course I was surprised to be walking across the playing fields, but heartened by the fact that despite the drizzle the ground still felt firm under foot.

Being early meant plenty of milling about, and also the chance to have a little jog and do a few plyometric warm up exercises.  All the while I ummed and ahhhed about what to wear.  I had gone in vest and shorts but as more and more people seemed to be wearing long sleeves and, frequently, even jackets with numbers pinned on, I began to contemplate putting a long sleeve tee underneath the green and black of the Gees.  Almost ready to pull the long sleeve on I looked at the dial in the car which read 8 degrees and decided to MTFU.  Many people looked at me like a loon as we mingled in the starting area. But I knew I had made a more sensible choice than they had.  Following a group warm up (man, I hate those things) we were called to the start line according to projected finish times.  Hoping for a sub 40 I was in the second row and finally found myself amongst people also hardy enough to just be wearing a vest.

Putney 10km Route
Twisty turny; the Putney 10km route map

The course starts on the grass of one of the many rugby pitches and in an attempt to round up the distance it resembles a stage in Snake when you have to start backtracking. Eventually though, we were on a footpath and heading towards the river.  From here it was a simple act of following the good signage with support from marshals stood out in the cold and drizzly weather.

Turning past Craven Cottage, Fulham’s home ground, we passed the 5km mark and I saw the lead bike heading back towards me followed by the eventual winner, Mark Vardy, who was running phenomenally.  The water station came and went (who needs water on a 10km?) and then we were heading back past the Cottage and making our way back towards the river.

For me, this was truly about digging in now.  My watch was ticking off the laps (set to one mile) but I wasn’t looking at them; my goal was simply to run as hard as I could. I was a matter of meters behind a Fulham vest, but with a couple of miles to go I was joined by a Sandhurst Joggers vest and another guy.  I got the sense that all three of us were trying to reach the same target and we pushed on well – while I wasn’t checking my watch, Sandhurst barely stopped looking at his.

After crossing the river we were back on the unmade path were footing was a little slippy so I searched for whatever firm ground I could.  We turned onto the playing fields again and re-entered the  snake pit.  In those situations it is hard to know when to open up your sprint, but I kept pace with those around me and pushed as hard as I could.

Putney 10m Running to the finish
Charging into the finish line

It was only on rounding the final turn that I saw the clock and knew that the time had eluded me, again! I tried to remember what my PB was and whether I had beat it, then remembered that I needed to finish strong and to stop dwelling.

The Sandhurst guy never passed me, but looking at the results he wins based on chip time!

Crossing the line I was awarded my medal, a bottle of water, a capri sun, a kit-kat, a banana, and a bottle of coconut water.  What a haul!!

 

In December there can be no guarantee for good weather.  We were lucky on Sunday in that the worst the weather got was a little bit of drizzle mid race.  Having been dry for the preceding few days the rugby pitches were firm and not too greasy in the damp.  It could have been a different day though and times could have been much slower with 10% of the course something of a slippy mud-bath.  For us this weekend though, conditions were perfect and I’d recommend the race in future years.

Intermittent Fasting – One Year On

I started Intermittent Fasting on December 1st 2016.  Within hours I was ‘starving’ and glad when the clock rolled around to half past twelve; my sixteen hours were up and I could crack on with stuffing my face. I persevered though, and within a few days it was easy to get through the minimum sixteen hours that I set myself.

What I did find out very quickly though was that I really had thought I could just motor on every day with the fasting, but life just got in the way.  At work especially the prescriptive lunch times mean that I typically have to have finished eating my evening meal / drinking alcohol between 8:30 – 9 pm to stand any chance of breaking my fast at lunch time.  I could take my own lunch and push my fasting/eating back later, but that would cost more money than a free meal provided by my employers.  This situation is particularly prevalent on a Tuesday – Wednesday as I have often not eaten until rather late thanks to being at the running track.

I even found myself fasting on Christmas Day, achieving almost 18 hours I think before digging into a massive pile of turkey and the trimmings.  I could see the numbers working too as the scales showed a decline in overall KG measurements as well as the fat %.  The one thing that seems to consistently hover around 62% is my water level.  Supposedly this is meant to drop based on some idea that the body stores water when you begin fasting but it will then drop it again once it realises the body is in homeostasis (or some such gobble-de-gook).  However, I think because I have never managed to truly commit, I have not seen this subsequent drop.

Very Occasional Fasting

And here lies the problem.

Particularly over the summer I just struggled to commit – more time on my hands seems to always mean less ability to focus on what I want to achieve; fasting just went out of the window.  I know it is called Intermittent Fasting, but I was less frequent than that!

I continued to fast on and off, and tracked my weight (some weeks more religiously than others.)  Going past 73.5kg again was the recent spark to get back on the wagon, and within two weeks of fasting 3 days a week I was back below 72.  It clearly works, I just need to FOCUS!

How fasting works for me

I feel like I have come across a routine that really works for me now, and it goes like this:

Monday :  Fast.  I don’t have to finish eating ’til 9:30 on Sunday night as I go for an easy run at lunchtime on Monday (the fasting helps to ensure that this is genuinely at an easy pace) and then I eat sandwiches at 1:30-2pm.

Tuesday :  Fast.  I am at the track in the evening, but not eating until lunchtime actually seems to help a bit with not feeling too sick.

Wednesday :  Fill my boots. Because I know I can’t really hold off lunch until almost 3pm I just say “what the hell” and stuff my face with breakfast, mid-morning snacks, roast lunch, afternoon snacks, dinner.  Nothing holds me back; maybe this is why I am not achieving my ideal racing weight?!?

Thursday :  Should be Fasting – but because in an ideal world I am trying to fit in a slightly harder run at lunch time this isn’t practical.

Friday :  Fasting. Unless I can’t be bothered.  Hmm.  I really am not showing the right level of commitment to this am I?!?!

Saturday and Sunday :  Goodness only knows.  If I am running then fasting is not likely to happen, but if not then I would hope I would give up eating.  However, it just ain’t always that easy.

Hugh Jackman is ripped through fasting
Apparently this guy does fasting. I want to look like this!

So, has fasting worked?

Yes.  I should preface that with the fact that physically my weight has not changed by any significant amount so it could be argued that the answer is in fact No, fasting has not worked.  That would be doing the whole thing a total disservice though; if only I had focused a bit better or tried a bit harder then I am fully confident that I would be tucked back below 70 kg and far happier with my body composition than I currently am. Arguably, I’d be racing better too!!

For this reason, I shall continue Intermittent Fasting for another year but I hope that this time I’ll stick to it a little more thoroughly.

 


 

Have you tried fasting?  Do you fancy trying it?

If you want to know more, BBC Horizon “Eat, Fast and Live Longer” by Michael Mosley is available here; it’s a good place to start.