Monthly Archives: January 2013

300km! The fight for second starts here.

So, that’s 300km up for the month (in fact I’m now at 316km). The target is somewhere between 450 and 500km. If I could do the latter I’d be pleased, but it will mean some serious kilometerage over the next 10 days – well, 18.4km a day anyway, which actually isn’t too bad.

My mortal running enemy Mr Fletcher is currently on 326km, but hasn’t uploaded for today (which I think was about 12km). So, probably around 22km separate us. It’s all very exciting. To be honest it appears that while the snow and freezing conditions have inspired me, they seem to have weighed heavy on Mr Fs shoulders – so I’m hoping the terrible weather keeps on coming in the UK. I have a Lance Armstrong “win at any cost” approach to this, as you can see.

So, why has my blogging been so tardy this Janathon? In all seriousness it’s because I tend to run twice a day. The last run is often late at night, and it’s usually absolutely bloody freezing. When I get back in my hands physically can’t type until they thaw out, and usually by then I’m slumped on the sofa under a blanket watching Family Guy. So, apologies. But I haven’t been slacking on the miles, as you can see.

Anyway, I could barely type that out, so I’m going to stop. Best wishes, and if you happen to see Andrew out and about remember to trip him up!

(Only joking).

 

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Janathon… Day… er 9, 8… 7?

I bet you were worried.

My sudden, terrifying disappearance.

Two whole days missed. No kilometres logged on RunningFree. My second place in the leaderboard becoming third. Then fourth. Then fifth. I could hear the hushed whispers…. Has it all got too much for him? Has his body crumbled under the strain? Has he been hit by a small white Peugeot van and smeared messily across the French tarmac? Has he been spirited to the fourth dimension by a 16 foot talking beetroot wearing a fake moustache?

No. None of these things.

There have been a few technical issues, now resolved. When I say “technical issues” I mean an issue of me not using technology to provide updates because of my general laziness.

However, my distances have now been logged, and I stand proud on 137km so far this month (on foot) and 49km (on the bike). This puts me comfortably back in second. Hopelessly adrift of fletchea, granted, but not out of the running (ho!) completely. To be fair, I don’t see fletchea doing any pedalling, so I think I should get to add my bike distance and running distance together. Sounds fair no?

It was an interesting run today. Well, I ran 12km this morning and then another 9km tonight, but the latter was the more interesting of the two. I changed my night running strategy today. I figured that running late at night isn’t without risks. I live in the middle of nowhere. It’s quite feasible that if I set off for a long run at 11pm on a day with the temperature below freezing, and fell into a ditch and broke my ankle I could perish of hypothermia before I encountered another human being. I should point out that I wear the same thing if it’s 30 above or 10 below. Shorts, T-shirt, socks, shoes. It’s warm enough if you’re running, but the moment you stop? Ooooh boy. I suppose I could wear full length lycra leggings and one of those puffy running jackets but I’m far too stylish for that. Even if it means certain death if I stop running.

Anyway, while running through scenarios in my mind of me being chipped out of an ice block in 500,000 years time by a future civilization and pondered over (“what was the sparkling bracelet upon his foot? Was it perhaps a mating ritual?“) I decided to experiment with running 5km circuits close-in to my house, figuring that even if I broke my ankle I could probably crawl home before becoming entombed as a human mammoth.

Amazingly I encountered some runners! Real ones. I occasionally see a few people shuffling round in shell-suits puffing and wheezing like an old steam tractor, but my strategy to go round and round the local village finally put me in sync with two local people who seemed to know how to run properly. Being France what could have been a lovely moment where two groups of people could meet and share a singular love of a sport was instead a bizarre social encounter which left me puzzled for a while afterwards.

First of all one of the runners (both male) was wearing a luminous sports bra. Let us call him Pierre and his friend Jean-Paul (I have no idea what they were called, but it seems reasonable). Neither Pierre or Jean-Paul had torches or generally fluorescent running gear. Considering it was pitch-black this seemed peculiar. The only means of alerting passing cars to their presence was the luminous sports bra. Admittedly he was wearing it over a T-shirt, but even so… It’s not really pertinent to the story, but I thought I’d mention it.

After we had exchanged pleasantries, I enquired how far they were intending to run. 15km, came the entirely reasonable reply. Did they run all the time? I asked excitedly (having never seen anyone in about 2 years of running in the area who looked like they took the sport at all seriously). Oh yes! came the reply. Every Tuesday and Thursday, and sometimes Wednesday at 6pm. Now, I can’t be sure this is a lie, but considering I’ve run through the village at about 6pm about 200 times and NEVER SEEN ANYONE EVER I thought this was a bit odd.

We chatted a bit, but whether I was invited to join them in the future or not, I don’t know….

This is what puzzles me. I taught a French class the other day (well, I taught a class of French people about English) and we talked a lot about the differences in culture between France and the UK in terms of social interaction. For example. In France the phrase “Oh yes! I’d be delighted if you wanted to come and stay at my house! Stay as long as you like!” actually, genuinely means “come and stay at my house as long as you like!

In the UK the phrase “Oh yes! I’d be delighted if you wanted to come and stay at my house! Stay as long as you like!” means “stay in my house for 2 or 3 days tops, after two weeks the sight of you will make me want to vomit and if you stay any longer I will personally stab you to death when you sleep with a rusty screwdriver“.

The French don’t understand this. Their social interactions are very blunt, rather than a tapestry of little white lies. But they also sometimes say very little and expect you to decipher meaning from tiny gobbets of information. It could be that by proffering information on the exact timing and location of their mini-running club that they would be delighted for me to tag along in future. They might even expect it. I don’t know. It’s all very confusing.

But anyway, apart from the luminous sports-bra I was shocked at their relative lack of lighting or visibility equipment. When I enquired as to why this was Pierre said he knew the road like the back of his hand. Which is fine I guess. But when it’s pitch black you actually need to find the road you know like the back of your hand before you can demonstrate your hand-related knowledge of said road. He seemed adamant that head torches were bourgeois accoutrements and entirely unnecessary . I didn’t argue. One thing you learn early on in life is never argue with a Frenchman wearing a luminous sports bra.

A maxim for life. You might want to write that down.

We ran together for 5 or 6km before we parted. The set off up the main road, disappearing into the rain, cloud and light fog with only a thin strip of luminous bra-strap keeping them alive. It was a peculiar meeting and one that lingered long after it had finished.

The question remains – do I run tomorrow at 6pm, try to meet up with them and try to learn more about these mysterious, phantom runners, guided purely by glowing lingerie. Or should I continue to run alone?

I think we both know the answer to that.

Janathon – Jour Six

Just a quick update. I can’t provide fun, frivolity and wisdom every day. Tonight I’ll concentrate on brevity.

Did another 13km last night (so, 24km yesterday) and 11km this morning. Was going to go out again, but I think I’ll take a breather and do a longer run tomorrow morning. Sadly, halfway through last night’s run the headtorch pretty much ran out of batteries. The last stretch, which was on trails, was very dangerous and true to form about 0.2km from the house I turned my ankle in a pothole I could barely see. It’s pretty sore today, and was jimmering a bit after 6 or 7km on the run, so probably best to give it a wee rest. I’ve also spent two hours in field harvesting corn and went swimming with the kids, so I think I’ve had my fill of aerobic exercise.

I’m now up to 100km after 6 days though! Yay, go me!

Thon du Jan – Day 5

In a break from Janathon tradition I’m reporting in early today. I’ve already clocked up 11km, but this is a mere taster for the run later tonight, which will be…. erm…well it’ll probably be 11km as well, but I should be breaking 20km today by a fair margin. This should help me claw back lost ground to “fletchea” who has currently overtaken me as the Janathon running god. I want to type a blog post opening in CAPITAL LETTERS again, so retaking the lead is vital and will be done at any cost. I’m not sure who this “fletchea” is – a modicum of investigation has proved he is a credible threat and may actually be a more committed runner than me. But we shall see. We shall see.

Now, you might be thinking “Oh runningthomas, how come you are so fast and can run so far? How can you motivate yourself to achieve so much on a daily basis? Why are you so dashingly handsome? Why…..” STOP! Please. I am a modest man. I can’t take any more praise. However, since you asked so nicely, I thought I’d share some of my running and fitness tips with you today so that you too can emulate my incredible running prowess, if not my ravishing good looks.

Tip 1. Diet.

The only reason to run is so you can eat more crap, guilt free. It doesn’t matter what you eat really – so long as you don’t eat plastic or metal staples (try to remember that). However, my key dietary tip for increased running performance is Tesco Value Digestive Biscuits which I import at vast expense from the UK. Tesco Value Digestive Biscuits are a cheap copy of the McVitie’s Digestive Biscuit a tentpole for British culture and values. If you’re American and reading this (and aren’t still pondering the difference between pants and underpants) then a Digestive Biscuit is essentially what you call a “cookie” and has the texture of a Granola Bar. I think – I can’t pretend to know much about American foodstuffs, though I did once eat a corndog in Seattle. Anyway, back to the biscuits. The Tesco Value versions are cheaper, nastier and leave a taste and texture in the roof of your mouth not unlike wood glue. But they are the cornerstone of sustainable, powerful athletic performance. Trust me on this. For quick-release energy, post-workout recovery, endurance work, whatever, all you need are about 6 of these before you start.

Then 6 once you’ve finished.

Sometimes 6 during.

To be honest, you might as well finish the packet now, you greedy so and so.

Tip 2. Sleep.

Any trained athlete will tell you sleep is important. It’s important for your body to repair itself and for your mind to achieve a poised spiritual balance. Idiots. Trained athletes know nothing. My sleep regime follows what I call the drool – five – shout methodology. To begin you need to stay up as late as you can – 2am or 3am is ideal. You need to reach a stage you black out on the sofa while playing a videogame and wake up an hour later with congealed drool on your chin and a late-night Open University program on the Jacobite Rebellion flickering away on the TV set. You then need to drag yourself to bed for 4 or 5 hours and then get woken up by your partner at 8am shouting at you for forgetting to let the cats out, one of whom has peed in the kids LEGO box and shat on the rug. You then need to spend the first 2 or 3 hours of the day in a haze as 40% of your neurons haphazardly fire at random and you repeatedly drink stiff coffees to return to a near human state. Following this plan to the letter should give you a post-lunch window of 2 or 3 hours where you feel good enough to run – or curl into a foetal ball on the floor and sob – and I bet you you’ll perform better than the “I go to bed at 9pm and wake up to a bowl of organic muesli” crowd.

It will be tough – but remember every day you follow my methodology you will toughen up your body and make it better able to suffer the rigours of sustained athletic performance. Twin this tip with the biscuits in Tip 1 and you’re already 90% of the way to hassle-free long distance running performance.

Tip 3. Equipment

Buy cheap. Always buy the cheapest stuff you can. This way you not only support borderline despotic regimes around the world that exploit their workforces but also get the slightly electric tingly feel you can only get on your nipples with a truly cheap running top. Cheaper trainers are best too. You may be tempted to bow to the “knowledgeable” salesperson who insists that paying double or triple what any sane person would pay for a trainer is a good idea. It isn’t. There is nothing better than a shop own-brand running trainer which looks like it was stitched together by someone holding a needle between their bum cheeks. Cheaper trainers are always more comfortable. More expensive trainers try to mould your foot to them. “Hey!” they say “I cost £150, I’m an expensive bit of kit, you need to be doing things my way!” whereas your typical cheap shoe just shrugs its shoulders and goes “whateverrrr“. Lazy shoes make for better running shoes. For sure, one day they’ll fall apart as you’re running along, like a scene from Police Camera Action, shredding into bits and blinding anyone following close behind you in a cloud of rubber and leather fragments, but until then I assure you your feet will be lovin’ it.

So that’s it. Simple eh? You might be asking why with so many running websites and magazines out there nobody else seems to be highlighting these three tips as logical and simple places to start as part of a structured performance improvement plan. That’s because nobody else understands running and biomechanics as well as wot I do.

The proof, as I like to say, is in the results. All I can say is try my method and if you don’t see results after 30 days then I’ll give you your money back. PHONE TODAY.

Janathon – Day Quatre

(I’ve got guests, just popped in to say I ran 14km. I’ll speak to you tomorrow).

Janathon – Day Trois

I AM LEADING JANATHON! 3 DAYS IN AND I’M IN THE LEAD! TREMBLE BEFORE ME MORTALS! TREMBLE BEFORE YOUR NEW RUNNING GOD!

Not that I’m bothered or anything. You know. It’s just for fun. Just for fun….. m’wha ha ha ha ha!

Anyhoo.

I went into the local sports shop today.

Using simple mathematical reasoning I’d worked out that I was going to get through running tops faster than I could wash them, so it was time to invest another 6 euros in a cheap bit of sportswear manufactured by exploited child workers somewhere in South West Asia.

I’m a bit like Henry Ford when it comes to running gear. Any colour as long as it’s black. But as I reached for yet another black running top I stopped and thought “NO”. I took a stand  against my personal monochromatic tendencies today. In a moment of wild abandon I bought a red one. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, or are aware of my general moaning, I’ve always disliked red. I was quite upset when my chunky Garmin 305 GPS was only available in red. I complained endlessly about it to anyone who would listen. When people stopped listening I started complaining to the pets. When they stopped listening I just started having internal dialogues with myself. Like Gollum.

But as I admired myself in the mirror before setting out for my 16.37km run today I noticed I was practically red all over (Joke: What’s black and white and red all over? Answer: ME). Red top, red GPS, red trainers and (I’m going to be open and frank here), red pants. For anyone American reading that’s pants in the underpants sense. For anyone British reading this that’s pants in the pants sense. For anyone else reading this then STOP THINKING ABOUT MY PANTS YOU DAMN BLOODY PERVERT.

I have embraced red. Red is indeed the new black. To begin with I was a little self-concious. I felt like a human strawberry gambolling through the French countryside. But I did notice that rather than the usual wing-mirror grazing I tended to get from French motorists, for once, they steered well clear of me. Fear the strawberry. Respect the strawberry. If I can twin this with my existing approach to terrifying French OAPs late at night I think I can take my campaign of terror to a new level.

I also bought a luminous yellow band with sparkling (red, yes!) lights on it. The idea is, I think, to strap it around your wrist or thigh (if you’re wondering how they manufactured something with a strap capable of adapting to a standard wrist and a standard thigh, then they didn’t, it’s hopeless) and any approaching cars spotting you late at night think they’ve encountered a low flying UFO and keep well clear. I’m not the most masculine of blokes, but the thought of strapping a luminous garter band on my thigh and running around late at night as I sparkle like Tinkerbell is certainly going to be an interesting new life direction, but one I’m ready to take.

I’m half hoping I do get knocked over. As I lay in broken heap on the road and the driver runs towards me in a panic I can wheeze “…you didn’t believe in fairies…. then this happened…. I hope you’re happy”. I can then do a dramatic death rattle and disappear in a puff of glitter.

Leaving just a faint red outline on the road.

Janathon – Day Deux

So, day 2.

I’m bored already to be honest. No, only joking.

The run today (14.3km) was fairly engaging. I high-fived a passing cyclist and a random green metallic Ford Focus beeped at me. If that’s not high octane excitement then I don’t know what is. Not quite sure about this mysterious green car. I’ve seen it about for months, and every time it goes past it always beeps furiously. I don’t know anyone with a green Ford Focus, so perhaps they’re just beeping out of a sense of solidarity. Perhaps they like my shapely buttocks. Who knows? The strange thing is that every time they go past I can never catch sight of the driver. By the time they beep, they’re already gone. Which is a Bob Dylan lyric I think. Or perhaps not. Anyway. It’s some sort of phantom car I reckon. Driven by Death. Or someone with a green Ford Focus who has kept it from me for reasons of embarrassment. I might be hallucinating it, but to be frank if the best hallucination I can come up with is a boring family hatchback with an invisible driver then I’ll probably need to knuckle down and actually start taking some proper drugs.

High-fiving the cyclist was fun though. A real sense of camaraderie and togetherness with a fellow athlete that is all too rare on French roads. Normally even dragging a smile from a passing garcon du sport is more difficult than getting blood from a turnip. In this wanton, dangerous, split-second – where my lycra-clad cycling brethren decided to throw Gallic caution to the wind and touch my palm as he passed – I experienced a sense of sporting closeness I have rarely experienced while out and about. I think he recognised in me another TRUE ATHLETE. Not the shuffling adverts for the local sportswear shop already feeling the pinch just 48 hours into their New Year’s resolution, oh no. But a hardcore distance runner, forged as he was on the unforgiving tarmac we both made it our daily duty to conquer. Either that or he was drunk. Which to be frank is probably the most likely explanation.

I wrapped up the day with a 16km cycle to go and get the milk. I got a free cheese today because of a broken cream promise.

I’ll leave that last statement deliberately ambiguous to try and inject a little bit of excitement into this blog.

It’s not working is it?

Janathon Day 1

So, here we are again. This Janathon thing.

I think I came eighth last year with about 350km run through the month. I was hopelessly adrift of the more hardcore runners – the top guy placed did double that, or something ridiculous. But, it doesn’t hurt to try for a magnificent top 5 placing, so this year I think a target of around 450km fits the bill. This is around 15km a day, entirely doable. Unless you miss a day, and then things get messy. Or you get injured. Or you just can’t be arsed.

Today was the first of a formula I’ll be repeating frequently. A 15km slow, endurance run in the day (with the backpack) and a faster 5km speed run late at night in the pitch black (without the backpack). it was good to see the hordes of fair weather runners out today on the usually deserted roads. 2 or 3 weeks time they’ll all be back indoors cramming Brie and red wine into every orifice and pretending they’ll get back to it at some point. I love a fresh faced New Year runner though – all kitted out in 250,000 euros worth of sweat-wicking fluorescent body suits and military-grade satellite navigation systems. Red faced, puffing, dragging their feet like a partially paralysed turtle. Happy days!

Anyway, back to me. The additional motivation of Janaton should be useful in getting me churning some serious kilometerage this month, but the looming 80k I need to run in March will probably be the bigger incentive. I have shook off many of my niggling injuries, with only a bad right hip still causing problems, so I should be able to train. But, critically, it’s whether I can train enough so I don’t collapse halfway through the Paris ultramarathon and need to get resuscitated  by a Frenchman. Who in my nightmares is normally played by Gerard Depardieu.

So you can see why I’m worried.