Contrary to popular belief running didn’t die this week

If you’ve got even a cursory interest in professional sport, or likely even if you don’t, you won’t have made it through the week without hearing about the shocking findings of WADA’s report into doping in international athletics and particularly the allegations of deep-rooted corruption in Russian athletics. 

Tools of the Trade

The tone of outrage is well placed – both at the offenders themselves and those (IAAF) who have failed to act to date. Countless clean athletes have been cheated, spectators’ trust abused and international competitions sullied with doubt.

It’s fair to say it’s not been a good week for athletics – and the problems are as clear in running as pretty much any other discipline. There has been talk this week that there may be no way back for athletics – even Seb Coe isn’t sure if the sport has a future.

For me though – I don’t want to jump into the doom-mongering.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve loved competitive sport at every level for as long as I can remember. I’d watch tiddlywinks if there was a chance of a close game involved. Participating in, watching, listening to, reading and talking about sport has enriched my life and continues to do so. And so it disgusts me that in age of professionalism, unparalleled investment, coverage and globalisation in sport athletics’ approach to anti-doping remains distinctly amateur.

But… its precisely because of this power to connect, because running can be as meaningful to the beginner battling through the first hardest mile, the “100” club parkrun stalwart, to the swathes of runners running not for themselves but for charity, to remember, or to inspire – that I have faith. Faith that running and athletics can come through this.

The intrinsic, dark corruption at the elite level thankfully represents only a tiny part of the sport. The average runner is not in thrall to the athletes in the same way as Sunday league players seem to be to their undeserving heroes. We’ve wondered in the past if this is a good thing – if it is the reason we’re not running fast times and breaking world records. In light of the news this week perhaps it’s not such a bad thing not to aspire to the top of the mountain just now. The massive growth of Parkrun, the thousands of participation athletes at events every weekend, the thriving online running communities prove that there is more to the sport than this. More depth, more spirit, more meaning than can be broken by the 0.1% at the top end.

For international athletics – it’s a long road back to credibility and I don’t know how long it will take. Perhaps they could start by investing properly in an independent global anti-doping capability not run by the countries whom it would exist to police rather than the current financial lip service and self-policing approach destined to fail. I’m pretty sure there will be much more bad news before it starts to turn good. This is not about the 2016 Olympics or the next World Championships – its about a cultural change that might take a generation to enact; when young athletes don’t countenance cheating as the consequences and likelihood of being caught are too great. It will take leadership and transparency that is not yet in place to guide the sport through the dark days.

No doubt, I’ll be watching with interest. But at the same time – I’ll still be running too. I won’t be worried about whether my opponents are juicing or not – just chasing the same old PBs and goals – racing against myself (the one person you definitely can’t outrun by doping). I suggest you do the same.   

Blenheim 10k




Looking back at the blog this year its obvious something has not been right. Since picking up a foot injury at the start of the year, things never seem to have got properly back on track. The foot injury still persists with a bunch of physio over the summer sadly not seeming to resolve the problem. To add insult to injury, I now also seem to have picked up a hernia so will have to go under the knife in a couple of weeks time to get that fixed so another few weeks with no training.

A strange thing has happened this year with the lack of running. When I started training again semi-regularly about 2 years ago it started off with buying a road bike and getting into cycling. Quite quickly I was balancing that out with some running and entering triathlons and soon my focus was really on running events as the thing that interested me most. Setting a new Half-Marathon PB, chipping away closer to a sub-20 parkrun 5KM PB and thinking about a debut marathon in 2014. There was just something about the simplicity of running, you run, you get fitter, you get faster that was hard to beat elsewhere.

Since struggling to run at the start of the year though, that also seems to have killed my motivation to do other things. I did the Ride 100 (86…) in the summer but didn’t really train seriously for it and whilst I enjoyed the event I’d like to go a lot faster in future.

With an impending surgery and still no clear resolution for the foot injury I’m not sure what 2015 holds. However, something has to change – over the course of the year this year I’ve missed out on a debut marathon at Liverpool in May, first Half Iron tri at Challenge Weymouth (with an aim to build up to Ironman in the next couple of years) and the RedBull steeplechase which is a race I badly wanted to do.

Whatever happens with the foot, I don’t want to have another year like this – maybe its just racing karma after feeling bulletproof in 2013, racing 3 times in a month etc. So – the first thing I’ve signed up for is a fairly hardcore cycling event – the 150 mile, 4500 metres of climbing Coast to Coast in a Day event (

Coast to Coast Route Map

That looks like the kind of thing that I won’t make it through on a whim so hoping it will motivate me to spend some hours on the Trainer over winter and get out on the bike regularly again next year.

And if the sporting gods are smiling on me maybe I can get that foot fixed somewhere along the way and fit in a marathon later in the year too.

Fingers crossed…

Cycling for Heroes (and Robogals too)


Sometimes best laid plans don’t quite work out – with my first marathon looming in a few short weeks at Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll on May 25th I’ve done something irritating to my foot (stress fracture maybe?) that’s keeping me completely off running.

In the vain hope that enough cardio, without the running bit, will get me round Liverpool if I’m fit enough to run by the day I’ve reverted with gusto to the bike. We’ll see if that strategy works out in a few weeks.

In the meantime though, that wasn’t actually bad timing. Why’s that… because on 10th/11th May I’m taking part in a charity cycle ride with some work colleagues at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence to raise money for two great causes.

This is a win three ways – first, an opportunity to do something a bit different with a crowd of people from across our business and hopefully build a bit of team spirit through the medium of a long ride through the country lanes in the sunshine (fingers crossed). More importantly though, it’s about raising money for two great charities:

1) Help for heroes – Help for Heroes offers comprehensive support to those who have suffered life-changing injuries and illnesses whilst serving our country. This is provided through grants to individuals, other Service charities, capital build projects and four Recovery Centres across the UK, in Catterick, Colchester, Tidworth and Plymouth. These will offer support for life. The money raised to date has been used to support our wounded, but there is still so much more to do. Soldiers, sailors and airmen who are injured today will still need our support tomorrow and in the days that follow, for the rest of their lives. They are still battling and we won’t let them battle alone.

2) Robogals – Robogals is an international, student-run organisation introducing young women to engineering and technology, seeking to address the current gender imbalance in these industries and create a strong pool of female scientists, engineers and technologists to fill the technical workforce of the future.

Our ride will take us cross country between our various offices. Day 1 will be a nice 55 run between Guildford and Newbury. Day 2 should then just tip over the 60 mile mark to make it to our office in Gloucester. For the very keen there is a 4 day route travelling via our delivery centre in Leeds, down through London and Guildford, visiting all of our UK offices in 4 days. Had it not been for that marathon in the diary on 25th I’d have definitely been up for that – but not sure 4 long days on bike is ideal preparation for my first 26.2

If you would like to support us, and more importantly our two chosen charities, you can donate here:


Not Running

It’s strange how quickly a little injury-induced absence from running can turn into a full blown social media, blogging, thinking about running even, shutout.

Having been off regular running now for the best of a month now trying to get over a niggling foot injury (maybe a stress fracture, although yet to be confirmed) I’m sure I’ve tweeted less, blogged less, I’m even building up a backlog of unheard Marathon Talk podcasts which is definitely a new one for me since I started listening last year.

Part of me wonders if this is a self-protection mechanism evolved to protect the keen runner from complete mental breakdown when unable to run. Reading about everyone else starting to taper for their spring marathons is a bit stark in comparison to wondering what time you might run in 8 weeks in your first marathon if you don’t manage another run until the big day.

In the long term, I’m not worried about getting back into the groove – as the nights get brighter and the weather warms up I’m sure there will be plenty of reasons to get back into the running habit.

Until then, and until the foot is right again, I’m going to go back to what started this blog in the first place, before I was seriously struck by the running bug. That’s cycling – the bike is cleaned and oiled, I’ve managed my first commute ride of the year so the plan between now and Liverpool on 25th is to use the bike to keep cardio at reasonable levels. Conveniently I’m doing a 2 day charity cycle with work from Guildford to Gloucester in early May so this should all make good prep for that.

So solidarity to those whose training has been scuppered by injury or other things, and fingers crossed that riding a bike is good training for a first marathon.

Oh and finally boo to ill-fitting running shoes 😦 Please can we have a wider fitting version of the Boost Adidas??! We don’t all have feet like Cinderella you know.

Reading Half Marathon with Team Write This Run

If Twitter is supposed to be the fastest news source on the planet now – my blog is more like a letter from a travelling explorer circa Chris Columbus time. After a couple of silly work weeks I’m finally getting round to writing about a great day out at the Reading Half Marathon with Team Write This Run.

Race teams are just one of the cool things that Liz (@liz_goodchild) and Laura (@lazygirlrunning) put together as part of Write This Run. not to mention their conferences, workshops and other fun running and writing stuff bringing together runners with a self-confessed predilection for pounding out words as well as miles.

For the half at Reading we had a good mix of runners – from marathoners and Iron(wo)men (@suziesheehy and @cakeofgoodhope respectively) through prospective Thunder Runners (@Borntoplodblog – think you might be mad for considering a 24-hour run Jay!) to those trying their hand at the half distance for the first time (@SlaterJen). Given that mix I think it’s pretty awesome that we all finished within ~25 minutes of each other – with Suzie setting the pace for a new sub 1:40 PB and Jen just over the two hour mark which is a great run for a first half.

Team Write This Run

Team Write This Run gearing up for Reading Half Marathon

My original target for Reading had been to go under 90 minutes as part of marathon build-up for Liverpool in May. As it was, having spent a month nursing a pesky foot injury and the week before the race on a 3-city whistle stop tour of India with work that really wasn’t on the cards. So I decided to a bit of hasty goal adjustment was required, just aiming to turn up and enjoy the atmosphere of a big event with some other liked-minded runners – getting a good hard training run out of it would be an added benefit.

On the day Suzie ( was aiming to set a new PB and go under 1:40 for the first time. Somewhat nervously I decided to run with Suzie and do what I could to help her get that PB as that sounded like a good pace to make it a hard session for me. Nervously because a) I’ve never paced anybody properly before and b) I knew in current shape 1:38 was probably at the top end of what I was capable of. After warning Suzie that she definitely had to carry on to her goal if I blew up at some point we were off.

Despite initial first-time pacer jitters in the end we had a great run – locking in nicely on the 7:30 miles Suzie was aiming for, despite the couple of punchy hills and stiff headwind on the long drag back up towards the Madejski stadium. It might have been a bit dubious as to who was pacing who at times, but for me it was certainly fun to run with another runner as most of my training is done solo – and I think the motivation of running at a good pace actually made me more disciplined and locked in on the pacing than I’ve ever managed in my own races where I’m either feeling strong and pushing on for something out of my reach or suffering the consequences and blowing up later on. Anyway – congrats to Suzie on smashing her 1:40 goal at just over 1:38 – sure you’ll be back for some more Half fun to shave off those few seconds to go 1:37:xx at some point!

Something that probably shouldn’t have done, but did take me by surprise, was the sheer scale of the event at Reading. It’s ten years+ since I ran the Great North Run and since I returned to running 12 months or so ago all I’ve done is small local races or triathlons with a comparative handful of runners. Despite the logistical gremlins having 16,000+ runners creates, like a pretty scary men’s baggage queue and a bit of a nightmare getting out of Green Park, it was definitely worth it for the atmosphere of running with so many other runners and the upbeat crowds that lined the course all the way through Reading. Definitely need to shake this pesky foot injury now so I can make the most of the Rock n Roll Marathon in Liverpool in May.

Despite being a long way off my original race goal in terms of time, Reading was still a great day out and a race I’d definitely consider doing again in Marathon build up. More importantly though, the experience of running with other people did make me think I really need to make the effort to do more of my running in a group / with training partners – even in a race situation where you’re going pretty hard and not exactly making lots of conversation it was nice to have someone at your side all the way round knowing they were pushing for the same goal. Twitter and the online running community are great training motivation to get out there but this makes me think my running community needs to grow in the real world too – you never know – it might even help me make faster.

Finally after such a great day out there’s a few folks who deserve some thanks for making it particularly fun:

@Crewroom for the awesome race kit – considering the conditions on the day were pretty changeable (warm first thing, but cooling wind later on) that special bamboo magic in the kit really did a great job on temperature control.

@TomTom for supplying a nice running watch to help time my efforts – even if I did look a bit OCD with my TomTom on one arm and my trusty Timex on the other on race day. (For what’s it worth their average pace was within 1 second of each other across the whole race which is pretty good in my book).

– Of coure Liz and Laura at Write This Run for the place and pulling together a great team of runners to take part.

– And finally, of course, Team Write This Run – thanks to Suzie, Katie, Jen and Jay for making this one a memorable day out.

Written inspiration – Feet in the Clouds

A first for the blog – a book review…

As well as occasionally writing something about running, a lot of the time I spend not running, other than lying on the couch whining about my legs, is spent reading running related things. Blogs, articles, twitter, books – pretty much anything.

Recently, as mentioned in a previous post about fell running, I came across one of my favourite pieces of writing about running. Feet in the Clouds, Richard Askwith’s part-chronology, part-love letter, part-eulogy to English Fell Running is a must-read for any one with interest in running, outdoor life,  sport or just the competitive drive that inspires people to do incredible things.

Feet in the Clouds was recommended to me by Jonny Muir, classy local runner, adventurer and author: at the Write this Run conference in November – clearly Jonny has great taste.

Having done a fair amount of walking in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales as a kid with my dad, and on the odd school trip, it’s somewhat surprising that I’d never really been running in the amazing scenery of Northern England. Having read Feet in the Clouds it was inevitable that I would have to, sooner rather than later – and as it  turned out a good opportunity provided itself over the Christmas holidays:

Things I loved about this book:

  • The way Askwith simultaneously captures the history and legend of the sport whilst at the same time making it feel current, necessary and still a vibrant representation of sporting and outdoor spirit. The dual historical / year-in-the-life-of-fell-running structure is a big part of achieving this.
  • The reminders of some of the places I’d been and would like to run / walk again – Ambleside, Grasmere, Snowdown, Wasdale, Ben Nevis and others.
  • The tales of hard men and women more at home running up and down peaks than round a flat track – stories of incredible efforts of endurance and speed to cross the countryside in amaizng fashion. The Bob Graham Round, the Dragon Back and Ben Nevis races being some of the more memorable (but probably not the ones I’ll be rushing out to do in the near future).
  • The story of the fell runner descending with such commitment as he passed through a gap in a dry stone wall that if he’d have been a foot to the left or right he’d have either gone straight through the wall or killed himself.

As my dad said to me after reading this book, the photos of the runners in the book are more reminiscent of jockeys than rugby players so I don’t think I’m ever destined to be a natural on the fells. But having said that, do be careful when reading it – the pull of the Mountains is definitely strong here and I’m sure I’ll be having another go in 2014.

Marathon Motivation through monsoon season…

Somewhat predictably the planned 2 week end-of-season break after lot of events in September / October overran into the start of silly season with the usual combination of extra eating and drinking (good) and lack of sleep (not so good). Before you know it, that 2 week break was 6 weeks with barely a run to show for it.

With Reading Half Marathon just two training months into 2014 and my first marathon at Liverpool in May it was time to get back into some training sooner rather than later. Luckily two online motivation tools came along at the just the right time.

First, #12runsofchristmas, an initiative on Twitter started by @RunwithKaren to encourage people to make the best of the Christmas holidays by getting out for 12 consecutive runs. 11 out of 12 runs in, I can definitely say it’s been fun to live the professional athlete lifestyle of run-eat-sleep for a few days without having to worry about fitting running in around work. It’s possible that the average professional doesn’t fit in as much run run-eat-sleep-drinking as me – which might explain why it’s back to office for me tomorrow rather than thinking about spring marathon season (too much).

Then, just as #12runsofchristmas is coming to an end Marathon Talk’s Jantastic initiative is kicking off on Monday 6th January. After frustratedly listening to lot of February / March Marathon Talk podcasts in February / March 2013 when I was just getting into running regularly, but having missed out on signing up for 2013, I’ve been chomping at the bit to get started on Jantastic this year. After Boyontherun’s inspiring speech in episode 208 of the Marathon Talk Podcast, I’m signed up for Team Boyontherun and looking forward to smashing out my target 5 runs a week.

All that remains now is to find a consistent way to fit some speed work into my training schedule if I’m to have any chance of going sub 90 minutes at Reading Half Marathon in March and of achieving the kind of time I’d like to run in my first marathon in Liverpool in May.