If the shoe fits….

Are you confused about which running shoes to buy? Do you need neutral or support shoes? What do different shoe types offer? And how does the technology do this? I’m going to try and give you the answers!

The running shoe market has never had so much diversity. ‘This is great for customer choice and for ensuring you can get something that is exactly right for you. However, knowing what that is has become increasingly challenging,’ says Richard Fenton, an ultra-marathon runner, fitness coach and footwear manager at Profeet (www.profeet.co.uk).

Challenging it may be, but Richard says this should not deter you from trying to find your perfect shoe. ‘Running shoes are generally designed to achieve one or more of three things: improve performance, improve comfort and reduce injuries,’ he explains. ‘Comfort is the easiest here; multiple studies have reported that we have a lower oxygen consumption when we select shoes based purely on comfort, so if you’re not injured and just looking for something to feel good then simply try on multiple shoes and go from there. The confusion can come when we start to look at performance or reduce injuries.’


Every shoe will not only interact differently with your foot but also with the rest of your body so it’s important to get an understanding of how you’re moving, and what you need. The two biggest shoe categories are neutral and support, with support being the biggest. It’s likely you’ll fall into one of these two categories, though as your running progresses, you may want to experiment with other shoe types. ‘If in doubt with anything I would always recommend seeing a specialist that looks at you running and takes into consideration your knees and hips as well as your feet,’ advises Richard.

In need of support?
Support shoes are for runners who need medial support (think support on the arch side) and a good level of cushioning. They are best suited for people who over-pronate (think of your knees bending inwards as you run and your feet having to overcompensate for this). These shoes are generally categorised by having a medial post, which is a harder piece of material in the mid-foot, that stops the foot from rolling in – correcting the pronation.

‘Very loosely speaking supportive shoes will tend to be slightly harder/firmer under foot, particularly useful for runners who have issues with their feet spending too much time on the ground or who are unstable,’ states Richard. ‘The firmer materials will help to speed up the foot gait cycle and get things off the ground and moving faster; this can be a common problem with people that have excessive joint/muscle mobility.’

Motion control shoes are for people who may be heavier and need extra support; you may be a bigger runner with low arches. The Brooks Ariel 12 comes under this category; you get comfort and stability as well as the right level of support you need.


Shoe: Wave Inspire 11
The description:
A smooth run is enhanced with Mizuno Running’s keynote technologies: SmoothRide; plus its revolutionary weight-saving U4iC midsole material.
The price: £105

Going neutral
Neutral shoes offer maximum midsole cushioning with minimum medial (arch side) support. They are best suited to more efficient runners and mid-foot strikers. You’re more likely to have a moderate to high arch if you wear a shoe in this category.

‘The sole of neutral shoes tends to (but not exclusively) be made with softer materials that are great for slowing down movement. Runners that suffer from stiffness issues or have feet that seem to slap to the ground too quickly can benefit hugely from having something softer underfoot,’ says Richard.

‘A flat foot does not necessarily mean it needs supportive shoes though. The same can be said with high arches and neutral shoes. In the past we have treated shoe fitting as “arch fitting”, where wet footprint tests and arch height evaluations determined the shoe we chose. This has started to become outdated as we begin to appreciate there is a lot more to the foot than one arch.’

Steve Wales, tech rep manager at Brooks Running adds: ‘Neutral shoes are aimed at runners of any calibre who have little to no biomechanical inefficiencies. Neutral shoes are so-called because they don’t try to coerce the foot in to behaving in any given way. This means that a neutral shoe doesn’t need to include components which are designed to guide the foot in a certain direction, making them more flexible and allowing much more freedom of movement than a shoe designed to have more control over the foot. Not having stabilising components also reduces the weight of a shoe, which means that a shoe like the Glycerin can have plenty of cushioning without being heavy. In comparison to other styles, a neutral shoe has an absence of technology, because the runners that wear them do not require the shoe to provide any interference.

‘Readers should consider wearing a neutral shoe if a gait assessment at their local specialist running store shows no need to interfere with what their feet do naturally,’ says Steve, ‘or if they’ve been running injury-free in a neutral shoe for a period of time which makes them feel confident that they do not need any extra support from a shoe.’


Shoe: Ghost 7
BioMoGo DNA in the midsole offers adaptive cushioning while staying more flexible.
Price: £110

Au natural
Natural shoes have followed in the wake of the minimalist revolution – they are not necessarily minimal, though they are categorised by a low drop (the height from the forefoot to the rear foot) of generally around four millimetres. They’re still a shoe built for speed, but they offer more support than a minimal shoe. Often the goal is to enable the foot to work harder than in conventional shoes – but offer reasonable support and cushioning.

On shoes are a classic natural ride. David Allemann, founder of On, says: ‘Each model of On shoes has a unique set of hollow pods on the sole called Clouds that, on impact, stretch back on impact to cushion the landing and then lock to form the solid foundation required for a powerful push-off. This technology provides runners with the best of both worlds – uniquely combining the soft landing of a cushioned training shoe with the explosive push-off of a fast racing flat.

‘The Clouds act to stabilise your foot strike and activate your postural muscles, putting you in control. On give wearers all the benefits of a natural running style, while still providing optimum comfort, and runners can expect a light, soft yet fast running sensation.’


Shoe: On Cloudsurfer
The CloudTec system is excellent at transforming running energy into forward momentum.
Price: £120

Fancy minimalism?
Generally categorised by having a zero millimetre drop, these shoes don’t have a cushioned heel like conventional shoes, where the front tends to be lower than the back. Essentially these shoes are providing protection against ground content – damage from what is below your feet.

‘Running speed and increasing it comes from good skill and appropriate strength,’ says Jamie Page, from Vivobarefoot. ‘Skill can be perfected through practice. It is essential that enough sensory information reaches the athlete’s brain so they can effectively increase their skill level and know what shapes to put their body into whilst moving, and master the correct biomechanics of running.

‘Strength comes from utilising the feet, legs and whole body in the correct fashion (skillfully and completely) on a regular basis. Our shoes are made for anyone who regards full foot functionality as a paramount feature of shoes. The technology is all in your feet. Vivobarefoot shoes allow that “technology” to thrive. How? The shoes are super flexible and light so your big toe can engage rapidly with the ground and be the body’s anchor and provide natural motion control. We make them flat and wide so the foot can splay on impact and recoil on lift off and so the muscles and tendons can provide the natural shock absorption. Lastly the shoes are ultra-thin but with puncture-resistant soles so your brain gets all the information it need to be able to run skillfully. We add terrain specific grip and different uppers depending on the environment and activity.’

If this appeals to you, it’s an idea to slowly get used to minimalist shoes. ‘It will take time to rehabilitate, regain the skill of natural movement (that you once had as an uncompromised child) and gain innate strength,’ says Jamie. ‘This can be done with patience and ease, it involves walking before you run, doing the deep “campfire” squat little and often and practising straight jumps at 90bpm.’

200030-07_Ladies_Trail Freak_Sea Green_Side

Trail Freak
Description: The Trail Freak has a lightweight natural fit, duo 3M mesh and laminated structured that gives a comfortable and secure second skin fit.
Price: £90

Is bigger better? Try the HOKA ONE ONE
These shoes use a wider platform than normal underfoot – particularly at the forefoot and heel. This helps to provide a stable running experience. They also use a meta-rocker (the curvature of the outsole at the metatarsal heads). The idea behind this is that when your foot strikes the ground the geometry of the sole unit pushes you forward into the next step – conserving energy and ensuring a fluid stride transition.

‘The shoes themselves are based on two fundamental principles: performance and protection,’ says Jean-Luc Diard, founder of HOKA ONE ONE. ‘Performance refers to the unique geometry of the shoes and the really smooth stride transition this provides. Protection comes via the cushioning volume of the shoes. Running is a high-impact sport, and depending on a variety of factors, you can exert up to four times your body weight in downward pressure. With that in mind it stands to reason that a higher volume of cushioning is important if you’re going to be running regularly or over longer distances.’

Conquest 2 - Women's

Shoe: HOKA Conquest 2
Description: A suspension midsole built with an EVA top-layer provides the signature HOKA cushioning, while the RMAT body provides a perfect blend of underfoot support and a responsive ride.
Price: £140

What is your “natural”?
Richard advises everyone to: ‘Look at the wear pattern on the bottom of your shoe to understand how you have been using it. In an ideal world we would see fairly even wear in most parts except for the heel where we would have slightly more just off centre of the heel towards the outside. If you notice a lot of wear on the inside of the heel then this can suggest that a shoe with supportive features on the inside can help to even out that wear. At the front end we want even wear but most commonly you may see extra wear on the part where the ball of your big toe would be; in this case it can help to have a firmer shoe in this area. Excessive wear on the outside of the forefoot can suggest that you have too much support in your shoes so selecting more neutral shoes would be a better option.

If you need a boost…
At the top end of the neutral market is the new adidas Ultra BOOST. Previously, adidas BOOST shoes would have comprised 80 per cent BOOST with an EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate) rim. However, new technology has enabled adidas to remove the EVA rim and create a shoe with 100 per cent BOOST. John Stewart, adidas running merchandising manager, says: ‘Boost material is more cushioned and more propulsive than EVA, it’s also more flexible, more durable and less temperature dependent than EVA.

‘What this shoe gives every runner when they put on the shoe on, is it feels secure, it feels comfortable and it feels cushioned in the heel. Those feelings are relevant for an absolute beginner and also a marathon runner.’

adidas boost

Price: £130

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Back to School

If you think there’s nothing wrong with your running technique, you could well be wrong. Or maybe you are like Phoebe from friends and fear your technique is beyond help? Think again, on both counts. This summer I decided it was time to check out the Running School in Southampton, to get a few lessons on how to improve my gait. I know I have a problem as I always get injuries in my left hip/glutes/knee. The question is, did I get a red card, or was I pupil of the week?

Before I start, here are my stats:
Age: 44
PBs: 20.55 (5K), 43.06 (10K), 70.10 (10miles), 1.40.44 (half marathon), 3.39.05 (marathon)
Current goals: Sub-3.30 marathon next time (or anytime…in fact make that just getting to a marathon start-line; this year it just hasn’t happened).

Here are their stats:
Cost: Six sessions £260
Expected outcome: ‘A detailed biomechanical analysis of running technique and movement screening, five coaching sessions, a handbook (including beginner/intermediate running programmes and a strength programme) and ‘before’ and ‘after’ clips of your running style,’ Paul Bartlett, Southampton Running School.
Contact: Visit the Running School website (runningschool.co.uk) to find your nearest Running School (there are nine franchises around the country, as well as one in Germany). For Southampton Running School Call 02380 653707 or email southampton@runningschool.co.uk

Before I started my six sessions, I talked to Mike Antoniades, the founder and performance director of The Running School. He told me how most recreational runners run without a thought for their technique.

“Running posture then becomes a leaning, mechanical shuffle rather than an elastic movement,” says Mike. “Most runners haven’t been taught, so they run how they think they should. To change [that], they have to go through a retraining process.”

This is what The Running School does. It aims to teach you the correct, and most efficient running motion. “This means the body has very little up and down movement (minimal bouncing) the arms are relaxed as they move, but like mini pistons backwards and forwards, and the legs are cycling with the heel coming up above the knee when it is off the ground,” advises Paul Bartlett, my coach at The Running School, Southampton.

I will make these legs run faster!

I will make these legs run faster!

I signed up for their six-week course, with the hope of transforming my technique, and the dream of ending my annoying niggles (and maybe even getting back into PB shape). I’ve suffered from recurrent niggles/injuries in my left leg for several years. The opportunity to get some expert insight into this was too good to miss.

What to expect
After a few minutes of easy jogging on a treadmill Paul videoed me from the rear and the side. When we looked at the footage I could see my left shoulder was sloping down more than my right. Paul was able to instantly tell me exactly what the cause was – my glutes (the big muscle in your bottom), and especially my left ones, weren’t firing. Paul informed me 95 per cent of the people he sees have poor glute activation. My right glutes were overcompensating for this, as was my whole right side; my right arm was coming forward and across my body; my right foot was further forward when it struck the ground than my left.

Next I tried a few functional exercises to make my glutes fire. I then hopped back on the treadmill to try out the correct running posture (your heels kicking upwards towards your bottom, your arms pumping forwards at a 90 degrees angle), which I found really hard. Within 20 seconds I was out of breath. After a brief rest, I tried again. Each time Paul shouted at me to adjust my hands (higher towards my chin), my elbows (drive back so that my hand comes as far back as my hip) and my heels (higher!). The first session was harder than I had expected, but I’d been equipped with the basics. It was up to me to go away and do the work.

Over the next week I did my glute activation exercises every day, and every time I ran I did some of the exaggerated technique. After about 30 seconds I would be exhausted though. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do what Paul expected me to!

Running faster, getting stronger
Session two was even tougher! I went over my functional exercises and I felt so much stronger than the previous week. Then it was straight onto the treadmill to practise the exaggerated ‘correct’ technique after a warm up; we did this session over and over again as I added in new elements (or tried to take out more bad habits!). We also went outside and I practised the exaggerated technique further – and surprisingly it felt quite natural (though still an effort; I knew I couldn’t maintain it in a race situation!).

Yep, had to do that even in a 60-minute session at the Running School! Good job it's big!

Yep, had to do that even in a 60-minute session at the Running School! Good job it’s big!

Session three was … you’ve guessed it, hard! I now realised the course was going to be more demanding than I thought. We warmed up with my functional exercises to get my glutes firing, and then hopped onto the treadmill to practise in full. An intense 10 minutes, doing co-ordination exercises on the mat, had me tapping back and forth with each foot onto a marker, as fast as possible. Then it was hopping forward, to the side, back and to the other side – all fast, all trying to keep your feet in the circle you start from. “These fast co-ordination exercises, that you do on both sides and to the back and front, re-teach your body to use all of the muscles in the legs at the right time,” Paul told me as I was sweating all over the place. “In just 15 minutes you can start to re-fire the correct sensory pathways to ensure you are using each leg properly.”

I can’t lie – I was relieved when the hard work was over! We went outside to practise my exaggerated technique half way across a football pitch, and it was surprising how I felt as if I was skipping along. Still, with the South Downs Trail Half Marathon (209events.com) that weekend I was worried I would revert to old habits as my body got tired running the hills.

Powered by fairy dust
The race was a big turning point for me. I expected to struggle so I couldn’t believe how I felt like a completely different runner. The sensation was of being ‘open’; my shoulders were back, even when I got tired towards the end. I was engaging my core much more than usual. With each new hill I did exactly what Paul suggested; used my arms to power up and kept my thumbs pointing forwards. It seemed to keep my gait in check, and I felt relaxed, comfortable, I even had a spring in my step all the way round. Was this a new me? I hadn’t been expecting that!

Sessions four and five also involved more functional and coordination exercises (jumping back and forth to different points on the mat), plus running on the treadmill at gradient 15! This felt so hard, even just 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off. But it really worked. When I went back to running with no gradient it felt like I was a child, a springbok hopping over the African plains, that fairy dust had been sprinkled into my trainers. I was amazed at how quickly my body had adapted.

During the last session I redid the functional movement analysis I did in the first; my score went up from 60 out of 100, to 90. Being a competitive soul, I was duly proud. And in the first week post-course I ran a 5K PB. When you’re in your mid-40s any PB feels like 10 Christmases rolled into one.

I feel like my running style is incredibly different – and better for it. I’ve not quite done the speed training to complement it but every time I run now I am adopting the style without concentrating or efforting. Paul gave me a sheet of strength exercises; I even photocopied it to take on holiday.

If I need a follow-up session, to check my technique is correct, I will pop along. Keep up with the exercises you are given and this, hopefully, shouldn’t be necessary. Maybe combining birthday and Christmas money could help you save to invest in this type of course?

If you are struggling with injury or niggles, or lacking the speed you seek, or just feel you have lost your way with running, then a course with the Running School may be perfect for you. I almost feel love towards Paul. He’s my running doctor. Not only has he unlocked my biomechanical issues, the changes he suggested seemed to have traversed my energy systems and I feel as if I am so much more confident within, mind body and soul. The hunched, depressed-looking runner I once was, is gone. Forever. Click on my video below and it’s obvious to see the massive difference I achieved in just six weeks.

Summer quickly turned into autumn and I’ve been keeping up my strength exercises given to me by Paul. I find it’s easier to do them after I’ve finished a run, twice a week – if I have to allocate them a separate time there’s much more chance I won’t get round to them. Now I’m proud to say I’m a Running School ambassador – if it can make so much difference to me, it can to you, too!

Bargains, bargains people!
Southampton Running School is offering half price biomechanical analysis, at just £15, exclusively to Women’s Running readers.

The sessions involves a 1:1 session with one of their Southampton Running School coaches who will analyse your running technique to identify your strengths and weaknesses. This session will be tailored to your fitness level and running experience, they will show you where injuries come from and to stop new injuries occurring and how to improve your PBs. This is available to both children and adults.

The 30-minute session is by appointment only. To book please call 02380 653707 or email southampton@runningschool.co.uk, quoting Women’s Running magazine.


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I love you, forever and more

When little brown bear was a baby in arms
She’d fidget and toss and could never stay calm.

Mummy would hold her and whisper so gently
“I love you so much and will save you from harm.”

The months soon flew past, in a flash of the eye
And bear was now one. She began shouting “MINE!!”

If Mummy said “Share.” Or told her “no more!”
Little brown bear would strop. Grizzzzzzzzzzzzle. And wh-iiiiiiii-ne.  (Whaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!)

“No love me!” she cried, her lips all-a-quiver
“I love you,” said Mummy, “for now and for ever.”

When little brown bear grew again and was two
She’d stamp and she’d throw then she’d bang and be bruised.

If Mummy bear asked her to eat her tea nicely…
Little brown bear would simply RE-FUSE!

“No one loves me!” she screamed, so ever so loud.
“I love you,” said Mummy, “right up to the clouds.”

Then next came a shock, t’was the tiresome three’s!
Bear’d push and she’d kick and she’d pull and she’d tease.

When Mummy said: “SIT DOWN! Eat your tea pleeeeeeeaaaaaasee!”
Little bear huffed… then ranted… then wheezed.

“No one loves me!” she said, tears filling her eyes.
“I love you,” said Mummy, “right up to the skies.”

When little brown bear grew into her fours
She started at school and her spirit then soared.

She learnt how to share, to listen, to care
The shouting and stamping… they happened no more.

“I love you,” she said to Mummy Brown Bear.
“I love you so much, forever and more.”

*You may want to substitute ‘Little Brown Bear’ with ‘Amelie Eve’ – then you get the original format of this story….


This little person is now 12 and bigger than me. She’s taught me so much, especially how precious her love is to me. I love you Amelie Eve, forever and more

It’s a work in progress…

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© This story is the original work of Tina Chantrey, and is subject to copyright.  This story may not be copied or otherwise exploited without my written permission.

The 401 Challenge

On Friday I met someone who is special. In fact I ran with him for a while. I was really feeling under the weather (a cold has been circulating in the house) and my kidneys were throbbing all last week, but I dragged myself out. I managed about six miles at a slow and steady pace and felt exhausted after. I couldn’t run this weekend either as I still felt rough, missing the first cross-country of the season. What a bummer. I think I moaned and groaned about this all weekend to anyone who would listen.

Ben doing an interview with David Castle from Men's Running

Ben doing an interview with David Castle from Men’s Running

It wasn’t easy to make it to the run on Friday, either. I work at home. Squeezing in a leisurely stroll out mid-morning meant my schedule was upside down. I normally hold a running group straight after the school run on Friday mornings, so I can get back and churn out as much work as I can until the clock hands whizz round and it’s school pick-up time again. Those six hours, between 9am and 3pm evaporate quicker than a family-sized bar of chocolate in our household of four women (OK maybe 1 and 3 young women) plus one male chocoholic.

Runners getting ready

Runners getting ready

As I said, on Friday I met someone who is special. In the couple of hours I spent with him he didn’t moan. He didn’t complain about any aches, pains or tiredness, or the fact he had run 39 marathons in a row. In fact I’m pretty sure he spent most of his day listening to everyone else telling him about themselves, their lives, their injuries and niggles. This man has put his life on hold for over a year so he can run a marathon every day for 401 days to raise money for others.

So far we are the biggest group of runners who have turned out to support Ben :)

So far we are the biggest group of runners who have turned out to support Ben :)

He didn’t complain when the big group of runners who met up to run with him slowly peeled off to get on with their busy lives, me included. He was so thankful for all and any support he got. When we were running we chatted about the whole challenge and I said ‘You’ll not only get exhausted from this huge physical challenge, eventually you’ll get exhausted from telling your story and having to talk to strangers every day when you run.’ ‘I haven’t yet – I don’t think I ever will,’ was the humble reply I got. He insisted every one of us take our photo with him, including everyone who came to support him and wasn’t running with him. Then he even gave us a present for coming to run with him. At this stage it was embarrassing….had I been moaning about my cold? How busy I was – too busy to make time for this very special person?

The master of selfies

The master of selfies

The man I met on Friday was Ben Smith. He’s running 401 marathons in 401 days in an attempt to raise money, and awareness, for two anti-bullying charities, Stonewall and Kidscape. How much is he hoping to raise? £250,000. It’s a big target. He’s not going to raise this unless people all around the country help him. He’s doing the miles every day, but – truth bomb – it’s us who have to put our hands in our pockets and help with a little donation, or, just as importantly, help him with the logistics of being able to live for 401 days on the run, and to get up each day with legs that work, a belly full of food and clean kit (401 days without a washing machine is not worth thinking about, even if, like me you *sparkle* rather than sweat).


I know if I was a bloke I would be writing about how epic and crazy Ben’s adventure is. But I’m a mum of three and I’m kind of worried about whether he’s going to have enough to eat, where his next hot meal is coming from and is he getting enough sleep on a proper mattress that’s good for his back? What if he’s snacking on junk food as he’s too tired to eat properly? Yuk – imagine… what’s for breakfast? I’ll just have a protein bar. Ummm, what’s for lunch, I’ll just have a protein bar. Right, what’s for tea…I’ll just have a protein bar. And is he stretching every day? I’ve never met a man who does! I know Ben doesn’t need me to worry about him – he has a brilliant team behind him. I still am though.

Just before we were off!

Just before we were off!

He’s got 10,506.2 miles to run, as well as the whole of mainland UK to travel (Wales, Scotland and England). I reckon about 21.1 pairs of trainers if he’s lucky, plus all the other bits of kit needed to tackle the UK weather all year round. Not only does he run a marathon every day, he has to travel to his next location. That’s a lot of petrol as well as time at the wheel with achy legs. If it was me it would have to be powered off about 401 full English breakfasts and at least 1600 other meals. Plus approximately £2,000 worth of sweets, chocolate and cake just to keep me happy in the evening. More if I’m having a bad day or week.


Hang on a minute, what about hot baths – you know, that divine moment after a long run or a  marathon when you finally ease your legs into the water and the smug smile can settle into your face? Ben needs at least 401 of these. Otherwise he’s not going to have any friends, 401 Challenge or no 401 Challenge. And what about a decent bed to sleep in? Come on, you can’t expect him to do 401 marathons in a row sleeping in Florence the Motor Home he’s travelling in, can you? And using the shower it has which is probably as powerful as a watering can?  So that’s the basics – kit, food, a hot bath, use of a washing machine, a good bed – if we can all help him out with these he’s got an even better chance of completing his challenge, and raising his total.


If you take five minutes to read about Ben on his website you learn that running helped him deal with stress and life’s many challenges, especially through dark and difficult periods. It does exactly the same for me and you. I think people like Ben Smith change the way we think – about the world and ourselves. They give us a good shake-up. He makes me think why am I always racing around doing 36 hours worth of life in every 24? Why am I always so busy I can’t say let’s just forget everything we have to do and just spend the day doing what we want to do. He is also pushing his body to its limits in order to make other people’s lives better. He’s doing this to help other people. It felt like I shared a few hours with a running (tall, bearded) version of Ghandi. A guru who comes into your life for a few hours, and sprinkles some inspirational running fairy dust on all who run with him, leaving everyone who may have lost their way in running (life) a reason to run again (regardless of your own bag full of issues slung over your shoulder) and just a little perspective about those who face greater and harder challenges than ourselves.

Ben stops for everyone he meets

Ben stops for everyone he meets

Ben isn’t chasing times, he wants to engage with everyone who is joining him on his journey and give something back to them as much as asking them to help him, with logistics and financial support. Like other amazing human beings who have taken on great challenges, he is a pioneer, pushing the boundaries of his body to raise a massive, life-changing sum of money. When you step back from the challenge you can only admire his determination, even though you’re not really sure where such drive comes from in such pioneers. They are such rare, uncanny creatures.

Ben's 1000th mile!

Ben’s 1000th mile!

If you go to his website click on the Get Involved menu and all you have to do is find a marathon near you, select it and send an email about how you can help him. Logistically, even though he has a Florence the Motor Home to sleep in, wouldn’t it be great if he knew he had a place to stay in each new location, a hot meal to return to, and even some massage therapy to iron out the knots in his legs. WiFi also helps; he’s got to keep in touch with his family, friends and the challenge organisers as well. Just as important, I think he needs lots of TLC at the end of each day. I told you, I’m a mum, so I think this is just as important!

Time to say goodbye, good luck Ben!

Time to say goodbye, good luck Ben!

If you’re a member of a running club you can even organise his route for the day (this is what my running club did), and just as important run with him. He told me he much prefers to run with company, as it helps the miles pass much quicker. We can all relate to this.

You can buy a 401 wristband for just £1.50 in the 401 online shop. (And T-shirts are coming soon!)

Will you help Ben? Will you run with him when he’s doing a marathon near you? The pace is slow and steady, about 11-12min/miling, with plenty of stops for pics, chats and refreshments (cake). He would be so grateful for your support…

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The heart of the matter

Can using a heart-rate monitor transform your running? Yes it can! But how? I give you all the information you need to train to your heart rate

Have you heard other runners mention working to their heart rate, or seen them wearing a heart-rate monitor (HRM)? Are you wondering what the fuss is about? More importantly, can training to your heart rate improve your running?

Earlier this year I went for a running assessment at the Porsche Human Performance Centre, which gave me my heart-rate training zones. Even though I had the same assessment four years previously, I hadn’t embraced the science behind it back then. Fool I was! Being given your heart-rate training zones is like being gifted a pot of running gold.

One of the tests I did at Porsche

One of the tests I did at Porsche

This year was different; I read my report more thoroughly, started wearing a HRM, went along to the Running School to improve my gait, then, bang, in my next two 5Ks of the summer I achieved PBs, and the allusive, coveted sub 21 minute barrier. I put this down to heart-rate training.

Every beat counts
Dr Charlie Pedlar is a physiologist at the St Mary’s Clinic, St Mary’s University, a performance and rehabilitation centre for athletes – professional or amateur. “Your heart rate (the number of heart beats occurring each minute) is an excellent measure of the overall stress your body is under,” he says.

It’s shows the physiological (and sometimes psychological) ‘load’ your body is dealing with. “Not only this, it can be used to objectively set your training intensity and monitor your gains in fitness,” he adds. As you get fitter your heart, which is a muscle, adapts, gets larger and more efficient – it can then eject more blood into your circulation for each heartbeat, resulting in a lower heart rate.

What are training zones?
Runners draw on the aerobic and anaerobic systems. Slow running is predominantly aerobic, and fat and carbohydrates produce the energy we need to run. As the intensity increases we use our anaerobic system, and rely more on carbohydrate. The deeper you get into anaerobic running the more limited your performance is. “Training allows you to run faster and remain in the more efficient aerobic zone,” says Dr Pedlar, “and training plans include running at different intensities, using the transition (or threshold) between aerobic and anaerobic exercise as a key reference point. Terminology such as ‘steady’, ‘threshold’, ‘tempo’ and ‘interval’ running may be used to describe training zones.  Each zone has subtly different training effects.”

Having your blood lactate measured while running isn't easy!

Having your blood lactate measured while running isn’t easy!

There are five heart rate zones, split into 10 per cent zones, which all have different training benefits (see the box below). For example, for a steady recovery run after a hard session, or race, you should aim for your heart rate to stay between 50-60 per cent of your maximum heart rate. If you are doing short, fast intervals to improve your leg turnover and speed endurance aim for 80 per cent. And don’t forget, your breathing can also help you estimate your training zones. Below threshold conversation is easy; at and above threshold you should only be able to give one-word answers. For intervals expect heavy breathing, and no conversation.

Working out your resting heart rate
HRMs help you ensure you’re working at the right intensity (this can be to hit a target training zone, or to make sure you don’t work too hard and go into a higher training zone). “They also help you pace yourself in races and hard training runs,” says Dr Pedlar.

So how do you work out your zones? First you need to find your resting heart rate, as well as your maximum heart rate. “Resting heart rate is best measured before you get out of bed in the morning, by measuring your pulse for 30 seconds (and multiplying by two),” says John Brewer, a professor of applied sport science at St Mary’s University.

My treadmill assessment felt harder than a 5K threshold run!

My treadmill assessment felt harder than a 5K threshold run!

Do this for four days, then work out the average value. If you find that your daily value then rises above the average for a couple of days or more, it could suggest that you are tired or have a minor illness. “This should be seen as a signal to reduce the quantity and intensity of your training,” says Professor Brewer.

Maximum heart rate decreases with age; a simple way of calculating it is to subtract your age from 220. This method can be inaccurate but it gives you a rough figure to work towards. Most people find that training at an intensity of between 60 and 80 per cent of maximum heart rate works best. However heart rate does gradually increase during a run, even when the run is at a constant pace. “Make sure you don’t set off at the top end of the range otherwise you will soon find the session too demanding,” suggests Professor Brewer.

Visit the pros
Alternatively you can visit a human performance laboratory, such as St Mary’s or Porsche, to get a more accurate assessment of your training zones.

Heart rate data can provide a valuable means of measuring improvements in your cardiovascular fitness, and guide you to be able to work harder, and get faster. “Lower heart rates at given speeds are indicative of improved fitness. Similarly, reductions in resting heart rate can also indicate improved cardiovascular efficiency,” says Jack Wilson, a sports scientist at Porsche. “Repeated lab tests can provide detailed insights into changes in cardiovascular fitness. Alternatively, repeating key training sessions each month whereby you run at a fixed speed for at least 20 minutes over a set route are useful,” he says. Recording your average heart rates during these sessions allows you to evaluate changes in heart rate over time.

This graphic shows you your heart rate training zones (source: Polar.com)

This graphic shows you your heart rate training zones (source: Polar.com)

Keep track of your progress
It is through analysis of your data that you will get the maximum benefit of heart-rate training. The scientific feedback you get allows you to plan and adjust your racing programme. “Training with heart rate is an easy way to achieve your goals,” says Liz Shenton, the performance and training manager at Polar UK.

“Many Polar devices download into the Polar Flow web service via a smartphone app so you are always connected,” says Liz. “Flow online houses your training diary, showing when you trained, the results of your fitness tests, maps and graphs of training sessions and giving training feedback (training benefit and load), to guide and motivate you.”

A few words of warning: running in hot conditions, dehydration and caffeinated drinks can cause your heart rate to elevate above normal. Be aware that these factors may affect your heart rate before you start training. It may be worth consulting your physician before engaging in strenuous exercise.

Random heart-shaped leaf daughter no.2 found and turned into a meme for me

Random heart-shaped leaf daughter no.2 found and turned into a meme for me

And remember, there is no correct training recipe to tell you how much of each kind, or zone, of running is optimal. However, science has shown that repeatedly including various intensities of training gives greater gains than either plodding along at the same speed, or thrashing out your miles as fast as possible.

“Just as important, don’t become a slave to your heart rate monitor,” says Professor Brewer, “rather use heart-rate training to get a ‘feel’ for the intensity you should train at, and rely on feedback from your body, not just your HRM.”

Heart-rate monitors: my favourites!

Polar M400 (high res)
You get 24/7 activity tracking with the Polar M400, as well as advanced GPS and training features. The M400 Pink comes with a wristband that’s 2cm shorter than the other colours available.
£157.50, polar.com



Mio FUSE is a heart rate monitor and activity tracker that measures the blood flow and temperature under the skin to analyse your movements and provides a daily assessment of heart rate, step count, distance travelled, speed, pace and calorie burn.
£130, amazon.co.uk


TomTom Cardio black back front
You get a wrist-based based HRM that uses sensors to track blood flow to calculate your heart rate. It’s not exactly subtle, and runners with smaller wrists might find it a little heavy. The Runner Cardio is geared towards zone training with five levels of intensity, from sprinting to marathons to basic warm ups.
£179.99, tomtom.com


Garim with strap
This is my favourite GPS watch of the year so far simply because it offers so much and is ultra-thin – a GPS you can wear all day without it feeling cumbersome. Its apps include running, biking, swimming, and golf; it’s worth investing in.
£229, www.garmin.com

Get in touch with my experts: St Mary’s Clinic: clinic@smuc.ac.uk, 0208 2404070, Porsche Human Performance Centre: php@porsche.co.uk, 08443 577911.

Paris to Versailles 10: Crazy, chaotic…unforgettable!


The Paris to Versailles 10-mile race was an unknown entity to me. After missing the Paris Half Marathon in the spring I was determined to return to the city to experience a race there and the next obvious choice was this one. Life is busy, so I didn’t get round to looking up the details of the race. My partner booked our hotel and travel on the Eurostar – all I had to do was turn up. Traveling to Paris in early autumn was beautiful; the warm weather made everything we did an extra pleasure. We arrived on Friday evening after a speedy journey from London St Pancras and made our way straight to the race expo. That’s when we both got a major shock.


We thought we would be taking a leisurely Sunday stroll along a relatively flat course that starts at the Eiffel Tower and ends at the Palace at Versailles 10 miles away. As soon as we entered the expo there was an area where you could sit down to watch a video of the course. We were in weekend holiday mode so got comfy in our chairs and waited for the next viewing.


The course looked leafy and beautiful as it wound its way around the Paris streets. Then it didn’t look so flat and for quite a while (we were starting to get uncomfortable in our seats by this stage) we watched last year’s runners bravely ascending quite a big, long hill. We both looked at each other…we hadn’t been expecting such a mammoth of a hill.


I always think being prepared for tough hills before you start a race gives you a mental advantage, and once the colour had returned to my face I was already starting to feel positive about the hill. I love hills after all. I may not have done much hill training over the summer but that didn’t matter. I would just take it slow. In my mind I was already sorted. So on to the rest of the weekend and enjoying the relaxed bistro culture. Saturday was spent wondering around all day taking in the stunning architecture surrounding us.

Breakfast - it was gross!

Breakfast – it was gross!

We didn’t really get to bed early the night before the race, though we weren’t late either. Still the alarm went off far too early. Dragging myself out of bed for races at the weekend is getting harder and harder. I’m a firm believer that your pre-race nutrition is essential for a good race. Unfortunately mine was shocking.


I hadn’t been able to find a porridge pot for breakfast in our local super marche; all I could manage was an instant pot of noodles. At 7:30am on a Sunday morning my stomach didn’t want the noodles. All I had left was a flapjack bar and this had to do. We had given ourselves plenty of time to get to the race so we could hand in our bags. However, I hadn’t factored in the complete chaos of the race start area.


Where were the large baggage trucks? There were 25,000 runners in this race, equating to many bags. Ah, there they were; I could spot some white vehicles behind the warm-up track. Wait a minute…as we got closer we saw the trucks were quite small white vans, and the queues to get to the first few were at least 40 people deep. I’m British and so I queue, but in front of me was a mad mob of desperate runners who were starting to panic that they may be running with an extra 10 pounds or so in their back. The. The van doors shut. Full. Sorry, try some further down.

OK… Let’s just move down, with approximately 10,000 other runners. People were pushing forward trying to find a van that was still taking bags as if they were fleeing a major catastrophe. Patience was key. As we waited hopelessly in the thrall around one van another began to reverse. A swell of people pushed forward towards the new hope, myself included. But this process had taken half an hour longer than anticipated and we hadn’t even joined the massive crowds queuing around the few portaloos that needed to facilitate the urgent needs of 25,000 bladders.


Sometimes I don’t queue. After the stress of baggage drop off we found some beautiful bushes and made sure come the spring those bushes will be flowering unlike any others in Paris. Along with thousands of other people. Bushes watered we still found ourselves with minutes to spare before the race started at 10. We’ll just walk over to the start, we thought, and ease ourselves in somewhere near the front.

I’ve run the Great South Run many times. I know exactly how to do this. Yet we were by now behind approximately 14,000 other runners who have obviously done the race before and knew you have to get to the start super early to get a good place. There aren’t waves of starters, it is first come first served, with a process of 350 runners being set off every minute until 11am. After this cut-off point you can’t run, whether you’ve paid or queued or not. So we had an unexpected 40 minutes of waiting penned in by thousands of other runners. It was fresh so everyone was shivering. Eventually we were off and the first few miles were busy, with hundreds of runners of any ability around you. Bands en route kept our spirits up and the early route was a pleasure.


Due to the crowded streets I couldn’t get up to speed which suited me fine as I expected the last few miles to be a struggle due to slight under training. There was a great atmosphere on the road. Runners hollered in the tunnels and spectators willed us on. I knew the big hill would start about mile five so I was happy to tick along, head up, absorbing the wonderful urban architecture and atmosphere.


I started to run off-road, on the track beside it, to try and move through the crowds. The hill was waiting round a corner, and it just kept going. As it was a mile long people began to walk, especially during the middle third where it was steepest, creating a wall of walkers to further impede your progress. By the end I felt the hill and I had a relationship, hopefully one of mutual love.  I wasted a lot of energy in the first seven miles weaving through the crowd. But at the top of the hill we were greeted with a sign saying altitude 180m and the worst was over.

From that point on the course was beautiful as we weaved through tree tunnels in a forest. There were downhill parts as well as a few extra uphill. Overall there was 750ft ascent and 400ft descent.


It would be useful to think of this race as a 10-mile off-road race: your time estimates would then be more accurate. After mile six I really settled into my pacing as the crowds seemed to ease a little, though I still ran the majority of the race on the track beside the road, occasionally almost stumbling into the forest area to try and find a route through.


I really enjoyed the last three miles, probably because I hadn’t been able to run fast in the first five, and my last mile was my fastest in 7:11. My slowest mile – the hill – was 9:44! I finished in just over 80 minutes which I was really pleased with due to the hilly course. Strangely collecting our bags at the finish was incredibly easy.


Obligatory pic to embarrass my daughters

* Warning! This is not a PB course! *

The perfect breakfast – for training or race day

In your quest to run better, faster, stronger, how much time and consideration do you give to fuelling your body with the perfect race-day breakfast?

If you’ve been training for a race for weeks, even months, it seems strange to dedicate little time to how you are going to fuel that race to ensure optimum performance, but some people treat their race-day breakfast just like any other. Not me! I prepare my race-day breakfast the night before, so my porridge is made up waiting for me in the fridge, I have one hard boiled egg ready to eat after that, and a selection of nuts and fruit, mostly banana and raisins, ready to snack on. If you want your body to perform at its best, It’s pretty important that it’s running on the right fuel.

This was the Jamaica Half Marathon, which started at 5am; I had breakfast at 3am that day!

This was the Jamaica Half Marathon, which started at 5am; I had breakfast at 3am that day!

We all know we should carbo-load the night before a race, but what, ideally, should we be eating on the morning of the big day? “Breakfast is especially important for runners,” says Emma Patel from North Norfolk Nutrition. “Whether you’re a morning, noon, or evening runner, breakfast can provide you with important nutrients and the energy you need for a strong workout. A nutritious, well-balanced breakfast can make you burst with energy and helps your body cope with the demands of the race/run that you have coming up.”

Emma stresses that your breakfast menu needs to include foods that are quick to make and easy to digest but also give you sustained energy. Breakfast foods that work for one runner – rice cakes with nut butters and black coffee – may not sit well with another. “Most runners need to experiment to find out which foods work best for them,” says Emma. “The American College of Sports Medicine recommends eating a high-carbohydrate, 400- to 500-calorie meal two or three hours before exercise.” A mini meal or snack of 100 to 300 calories is plenty for runs of up to an hour at a moderate pace.

These legs don't run anywhere unless they get their porridge

These legs don’t run anywhere unless they get their porridge

Whatever calorie count you’re aiming for, the best breakfast foods are those rich in complex and simple carbohydrates and high-quality protein, with smaller amounts of healthy fats. This combination of nutrients will set you up for better running no matter what time of day you head out. “Try to avoid foods that can cause stomach cramps and stitches such as too much milky products or hard fruits such as apples and pears and dried fruits such as figs, prunes and mixed seeds,” she says.

Keep it simple for breakfast as the goal is to fill the stomach up without taking any risks before the race! “You may want to prepare breakfast the day before in case the hotel you are staying at does not have the ‘right’ runners diet.” If there is one day of your life to bring your own food to the table it is race day! Also, don’t forget to hydrate with a good amount of water prior to the race/run and a black coffee. “Although caffeine will not transform a poorly prepared runner into a better one, two-thirds of studies with trained runners show significant benefits of caffeine on performance or physiological responses or both.”


Emma suggests these options (all of which can be accompanied by a black coffee):
Granola: most granola contains some sort of oil but you can use fruit juice, agave nectar or manuka honey to give your oats moisture.

Quinoa and fruit: make sure that you limit the amount of fibre and avoid fibrous fruits like figs, prunes and apricots which may leave you feeling bloated and put you at risk of GI distress during the race.

Teff porridge or wholegrain rice porridge: leftover wholegrain rice makes a fast quick breakfast. Add some nut butters for added protein for example almond, cashew or brazil nut butters.

Rye bread with egg whites/scrambled eggs: this is a good low Gl meal that will provide sustained energy throughout your race/run.

Oat groats with hemp protein powder: to provide good amounts of slow release carbohydrate and protein for sustained energy to reduce spikes in blood sugar before the race. Raw oat groats need to be soaked before eating to soften them. They are the whole oat kernel that includes the bran layer which makes them even healthier than rolled oats or steel-cut oats. As they are rather fibrous they need to be tested out in training first.

Spelt or millet cereal, banana and peanut butter.

Don’t forget recovery post-run snacks:
Sweet potato cakes: perfect for brunch post race/run. When you have time, make a double batch and stock up the freezer.

Fig and honey rice cakes with nut butters: this is a gluten free recipe that can work best as a snack following a run or as a quick pre-run snack. Warning: avoid too many figs!

Buckwheat pancakes with kefir yoghurt and mixed berries. This post workout breakfast is a good mix of carbohydrate, protein, healthy fats and antioxidants to replenish your stores after a hard race/run.

Focus on easily digestible carbohydrate as they ‘store’ very easily, such as bagels, oatmeal with water, honey, banana and rice cakes.

It’s time to change your mindset and change your life (and your running of course!)

I’m just as bad as every other runner (and woman!) out there who doubts themselves and questions what they do. Will I be able to finish my long run? How will I ever run a PB again in my mid 40s? Does my bum look big in these shorts/capris/leggings?!

More so in the last five years or so as a difficult divorce knocked my confidence right out of me, heart and soul. For months, and then a few years I could run, then I couldn’t. I started training with my club again, then stopped. I entered races then never made it to the start-line (far too often). So I’ve had a good few years of being demoralised, physically and mentally. But there have been a few glimmers of hope; good days when I felt like I was flying and some good races that I was almost happy with. Running is a constant rollercoaster, and we all go up and down with it, just as we do with life. I’ve found that being able to accept my running for what it is now – regardless of the amount of training behind me, or the speed in my legs – means that I keep going when life wants me to stop, and I feel I’m managed to hold on to that wisdom we all know with running – consistency is key.

I get a lot of motivation from my three girls...what motivated you to keep going?

I get a lot of motivation from my three girls…what motivates you to keep going?

What’s one of the most important ways I do this? Talking to myself of course. More commonly known as Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP. NLP is the art of getting consistent results using the language of the mind to positively influence our attitude and therefore our behaviours. “I’m never going to be able to run that fast/far…” say this no more! “I’m too old to run a marathon…” Stop it right now! “I’m never going to be as good a runner as I want to be…” Oh yes you are!

I’m lucky as at a particularly low point post-separation I visited an Emotional Wellness Coach, Janet Smith. At this stage I was carrying around a lot of stress and anxiety after looking after my three girls on my own for two years. After a few sessions with Janet my whole approach to myself, and my divorce, would transform dramatically.

Anything is possible, if you believe in yourself

Anything is possible, if you believe in yourself

“NLP can improve your performance dramatically,” Janet told me at our first meeting. “How? It provides a series of techniques that assist in changing negative mindsets or removing blocks to performance that have been created through bad habits or as a result of negative past experiences.”

NLP techniques can be used to focus your mind. “Changing limiting self beliefs and negative self talk will increase personal success as a runner and also increase happiness as unresolved negativity is released,” Janet said. “Performance in any sport can be broken down into the components of knowledge, skill and attitude. With running, the attitude or mental approach is often paramount in achieving success. Think of the runners that you admire: what qualities do you notice? It is often attitude which allows that person to put in the dedication to achieve their goals; knowledge and skill become secondary.”

OK I hear you say, but how is NLP going to benefit me?
By working with NLP it is possible to challenge your long standing beliefs through ‘mental modelling’, a questioning paradigm, that helps you to get to the root of the problem that affects performance. “You may also wish to break down your running technique into components which can be looked at individually. Often what we believe about a problem is not where we end up finding the solution,” continues Janet. “We can begin by asking ourselves simple questions such as: What do I believe about my ability to reach my goal? Is there anything that will stop me? Do I commit 100 per cent or do I self sabotage?”

This is an image I hold in my mind when I am struggling with my running. It reminds me of The Dodo Trail I ran in Mauritius

This is an image I hold in my mind when I am struggling with my running. It reminds me of The Dodo Trail I ran in Mauritius

Your success begins with having the right attitude, but it’s important to look at your whole life, not just your running. “It is never just about the running; outside stresses influence our ability,” Janet believes. “Negative emotions and anxiety can drain our energy and cause under performance. Similarly being too relaxed and not focused will lose us ‘our edge’.” In my case, my traumatic divorce bought negativity into all areas of my life – financial, relationships, home, family. It dragged me down into a dark, dark place. Janet made me realise that if I wanted to, I could leave that place.

A really tough race, the Killarney Adventure Race in Ireland

A really tough race, the Killarney Adventure Race in Ireland

To do this, and to reignite my love for running, and reestablish it in my daily and weekly routine, Janet encouraged me to create the best attitude I could around my running. “Begin by thinking of a time when you were off your game and under-performed. What emotions were present? How were your behaviours influenced by those emotions? It is most likely that negative emotions of anger, fear and anxiety were present in some capacity or they even stopped you from going out running in the first place.”

My first marathon, Shakespeare

My first marathon, Shakespeare

Then I had to focus on the feelings surrounding my running that had given me the most joy and pleasure. This was easy. It was finishing my first marathon, and the feelings of sheer disbelief that I had finally achieved something I had dreamed my whole life of doing. The elation was so incredibly it took light years to make my way back down to earth.

We can all raise our awareness of our own peak performance by recognising when we are on our game and things are going well. If we can just stay out of our own way then we will perform to the peak of our capacity! Increasing our self awareness provides us with the motivation to achieve our aims.

“It is believed by numerous coaches that the next big steps in human performance will come from how we harness the mind and this is where NLP will come into its own as we step into the future of sport and competition,” adds Janet.

Whatever it may be that you hope to achieve in your running, or whatever your dreams are, once you start believing you can do this, you will.

So, what is Emotional Wellness Coaching?
“As an Emotional Wellness Coach, I use NLP techniques alongside hypnosis and Spectrum Therapy when working with clients,” says Janet. “By working with a client’s own individual programming it is possible to increase performance by using visualisation and hypnosis. Furthermore, I use Spectrum Therapy to release negative emotions, help people heal from previous past experiences and become more positive in all areas of their life. This can be extremely beneficial not only in bringing about optimum performance but in providing a happier more enjoyable experience whilst running.”

Some NLP strategies we can all do at home
Janet suggests you:

Listen to the stories you tell yourself and others about your running. Do you constantly discuss your fears over a previous injury? Do you play down your ability? Are you frightened of achieving success or failure? Change the stories – change the results!

Focus on what you do want and not what you don’t want.

Ask yourself what do you believe about your ability to achieve your goal? If you believe it is impossible or that it will take a long time, you will be right.

Imagine yourself having the best run of your life, what would need to be happening? How would it feel, look and sound? Use this as a visualisation exercise.

Take time to focus your mind by using visualisation. Relax, breathe slowly, close your eyes and imagine yourself achieving your goal, is there a colour or sensation connected to it? Now make that colour or sensation more vibrant and more compelling. Do this everday to install new behaviours.

Ask yourself are you literally running away from your problems? How happy are you with your life? Are there negative situations that you should be addressing?

Listen to your inner voice, do not allow your ego to push you towards an injury.

To find out more about how NLP and how Emotional Wellness Coaching can benefit you, visit www.emotionalwellnesscoaching.co.uk.


Amazing Mo

This is an interview I did with Mo Farah before he won his first of his ‘doubles’ at London 2012 (he’s just completed a treble double!). How much has he achieved in such a short time since then…

“Obviously this year has been the breakthrough year for me, and I have been really surprised. Early on, six months ago, if you had said to me you could have one world medal I would have been happy with that but to come away with two, a gold and a silver, is amazing,” Mo told me. “Moving to America has been a big change but I was always there, or thereabouts; in the past I have finished sixth or seventh, but I was only one half of a second behind the medals at the 2007 World Championships and then in 2009 it was one and a half seconds.”

This is called an Aries smile (Photo: Mark Winterbourne)

This is called an Aries smile (Photo: Mark Winterbourne)

I asked how the move to the US influenced Mo. “The facilities are incredible,” relays Mo, “as well as having Alberto [Salazar] as a coach. I am really enjoying it out there; training is going well and it offers me the chance to get away from everything.” On his motivation to go for gold after his silver in the 10,000m at the World Championships last year, Mo said: “Obviously on the 10k I wanted to win the gold but didn’t. I came close but not close enough. As an athlete you are disappointed and you think about how hard you have worked so you say to yourself this time it is the 5k and I want to get gold, which gave me a lot more confidence. I knew I would have to work hard for the 5k though.


Mean Mo!

“Last year (2011) was very good but you have to forget about this and keep training hard to be on top of your game. I am planning to double up at the Olympics. It’s not going to be easy but I will give it a go. I believe the 10k is before the 5k so I’ve got to take care of business in the 10k and see how the body recovers and then go into the 5k.” The world will wait with baited breath to see how Farah’s games pan out.

Photo: Mark Winterbourne

Photo: Mark Winterbourne

Mo is cagey about his training; he doesn’t want to give his secrets away. Here’s what he told me he does every week (remember this is pre-2012. I expect his training has done a double-double since then, too!).
“I probably run a 100 miles a week, maybe just over. This involves three types of session a week – running twice a day, with gym sessions added in three times a week. I start off on Monday running 12 miles in the morning and another five miles in the evening. A track session will follow in the morning on Tuesday and another run in the evening, maybe with some weights as well.
“Wednesday will be two runs again and on Thursday another track session plus an evening run and some weights. Friday I run twice. Saturday’s track session in the morning will be followed by a run in the evening and then I always do a long run on Sunday.
“Throughout the week we try to cover every angle – long, short, speed, fast. It just depends what the coach says. We break down the sessions, so sometimes we have a long session, sometimes a speed session, sometimes medium and then we have the long runs as well.”


What? It’s the wrong Farrah?

Mo has achieved so much in the last few years. The question is, does he want to continue his doubles through to Rio? Can we push the realms of the believable and imagine a quadruple double? With a new baby on the way, and training to the extent and degree he does this represents a huge physical and mental effort. Such success isn’t possible without sacrifice, as well. Whatever he decides, the world adores him. And rightly so.

the new adidas adizero XT boost trainers: my review

It’s still (just about) summer, but with the recent rain off-road running has already become a bit soggy – cross-country races will be here before we know it.

I received my pair of adizero xt boost trainers about a week ago, and thought it would be a while before I took them out for their first run. However, a few days ago, when I ran my loop around the fields behind my house I was surprised how wet and muddy the lower part of the closest field had become. Dog walkers were wearing their wellies – always a sign that the ground underfoot is changing.


Do my feet look big in these?

So today I knew, even though it was warm, muggy and 23 degrees, that there would be mud waiting for me so I decided to give the xt boosts a try. Needing to work on a bit of speed, which I’ve really neglected over the summer, I decided to do my 10 x 1minute reps around the field rather than on pavements because I just couldn’t face running on the road! Tarmac exhaustion.

I knew this session would be tougher on the field, as I’m running along grassy edges, through a lot of mud and puddles, some areas of more compact mud where the sun bakes the ground and a few kinder stretches that are almost trails. It’s quite a rutted route around the field though, and there are a few little inclines – all perfect for blowing out some speed and doing a hard session when you are short of time.


The xt boosts felt comfy when I put them on and they definitely didn’t feel too heavy, which some trail shoes can. They also didn’t feel rigid around the cuffs – another feature that I don’t like in some trail shoes (especially when they’ve been caked in mud a few times and start to resemble the texture of wood). Unlike traditional trail shoes, the fabric of the high-cut collar flows from the shoe up your ankle, rather than stopping with a rounded top. They were much more comfortable in this aspect than I expected.

I have small, narrow feet; size 4 in normal shoes. I usually go up one size for trainers, but with adidas I go up 1.5 sizes as they always come up a bit small. I thought the laces for the shoes were a bit too long, as even doubled up they were still flapping around my feet and swinging up and catching the skin on my ankles. Obviously I have small feet so had to pull the laces tight, but I think even someone with much wider size 5-5.5 feet would find this too. The fabric around the laces was quite bunched – this wasn’t a fault; as I said, I have narrow tiny feet and am used to this on most of my trainers.


I’d had a sneak preview of the shoes during the London Marathon expo week back in April, when I was invited to view the adidas autumn/winter collection and I was really impressed with the look and the advancement in technology they offer. When I first took the trainers out of their box I was again impressed with the design and I love the high-cut collar they give you. Acting like an in-built gaiter, this keeps out dust, sand, mud, stones, or other debris – which really annoys me when it somehow finds its way into your trainers then rubs causing irritation. The collar also provides extra support for your ankle, so crucial in off-road running where the terrain constantly changes. I also realised after my first run that it helps wick away sweat, which I seem to produce a lot of, even – bizarrely – around my ankles! I’m sure this will be beneficial in the really colder, harsher weather when your feet are freezing as you run.


Sweaty betty ankles

The shoes are easy to put on (the collar is very stretchy) and they felt snug. There was no rubbing from the cuffs of the trainers, which I think is another distraction we can all do without.

My youngest asked me why I was lying on the grass. She's never done off-road intervals

My youngest asked me why I was lying on the grass. She’s never done off-road intervals

My run went through plenty of mud, puddles, grassy banks and a little bit of a drier pathway, and there was no slippage as I hit the wet ground underneath. When I ran a few days ago in normal trainers around the field my feet were soaked after the first lap, though I think the higher midsole lifted my feet up a bit so I didn’t notice them feeling wet as I ran.


Not too caked in mud after the run

Not too caked in mud after the run

These shoes have a boost midsole, which helps to transfer your energy back up to you through your legs, and I felt as if I was zipping along nicely in them. The fact they are so light also helps with this. They felt flexible underfoot, as well as stable. I’ve had a knee injury on and off for a few years, which meant I cautiously avoided most cross-country races last winter due to worrying that the terrain would cause the injury to flare up. However this year I’ve done a lot more strength and conditioning exercises on my left side to strengthen my glutes, thanks to doing six sessions at Southampton Running School earlier in the summer, so I’m ready to give cross-country races a go this season. I don’t want to feel my fit are slipping away as I hit wet conditions underfoot, as I think this constantly jolts and aggravates your knees, and I felt today that my ankles and knees felt stable in this shoe. The true test will be a few months down the line when conditions are a lot worse than they are now.

You also get a really rugged outsole which I think makes you feel you are getting protection from harder knocks, such as when your feet hit against a larger rock. This is especially noticeable around the toes. I also thought the Continental Rubber lugs were strong and effective. You get four biting surfaces for both lateral and linear traction.


Your feet are going to get wet once you are running in the rain, as there’s a mesh upper – but if you are worried about this you wouldn’t be running on the trails or in cross-country races. Also, I know the shoes will soon be caked and covered in mud, but I would really like to see more colour in them, so that they look distinctively like women’s trail shoes rather than unisex.

As far as the session I did, I managed 9 x 1 minute reps off a 75 second recovery; after five I was ready to give up! Running off-road stretches you so much more than on paths – I find this session easy and a bit boring when I do it on the road, and only give myself 60 seconds to recover. I tried to focus on keeping my chin level, with my arms pumping, especially during the inclines (another gem I’ve learnt from the Running School). As soon as I get tired my arms begin to pump across my body instead of forward, so if you decide to do a session like this make sure you are looking forward about five metres and pump your arms (held at a 90 degree angle) to help propel you forwards as you tire. And you will tire quickly!

Random photo - just as important as running is being an embarrassing parent

Just as important as running is being an embarrassing parent

I haven’t done as much running as I hoped to over the school summer holidays, so am not as fit or as fast as I would like to be. So, if you’re feeling like me it’s also worth taking each rep at a time. After five intervals I didn’t think I would make it to eight, but I just put in the effort, and said one more each time. I was surprised I did the ninth, and happy – I didn’t go for the 10th as I was feeling really tired and weak by that time. As I mature into my running I’ve come to realize it’s not always worth doing the whole number, if you are slowing down dramatically. I would rather do eight or nine reasonable efforts then stop, then carry on to the bitter end and do a slow effort. I think really struggling on when you know the speed has gone really negatively impacts on me after the session – I always feel better about myself when I’ve said ‘That’s enough!’


It’s been hard to fit in much training over the summer, and I didn’t think I would make it out for a run today, so I was chuffed to get round the field, with some speed thrown in, and it helped me get through this afternoon. Doing one thing for you every day is so valuable, whether it’s for fitness or mental health. I am really looking forward to running in the mud this winter – if you would like to give it a try I’ve written a feature on giving cross-country a go in the November issue of Women’s Running mag, which will be on sale 26th September. There are some top tips from Liz Yelling in it too! I’m sure all cross-country runners are slightly madder than normal runners!

Has anyone else tried the adizeros yet? Who else is looking forward to the cross-country season?

adidas.co.uk  £105

Warning: take care if you are doing efforts off-road. There’s a risk you may get seriously faster