I continue to read Men’s Running, the magazine I cast a sarcastic light upon some months ago now. In actual fact, I’ll eat humble pie and say that I do actually find it a rather good, and rather informative read.

However, there is one little section in the magazine that always depresses me.

They have this full page spread about some reader who has decided to write in to brag about what he’s managed. He also sends in one of those before and after photo sets, which they have on posters for slimming world. This month it features some guy who was about 17 stone, and then decided to run to lose weight. Within six weeks, he ran a half-marathon in 2h10m, and during the last 12 months (that’s only how long he’s been doing this for) he’s running them in 1h35m. He did a marathon in well under 4 hours too, and did some stupid 48 mile ultra marathon in under 9 hours. And now, unsurprisingly, he weighs what I currently do – 12st 5lb.

This is meant to be an inspirational read. However, all I see is bragging. Running a half marathon with 6 weeks training? Full marathons and ultra-marathons within 12 months?

In actual fact, it’s just depressing, and it’s enough to make someone with a weaker disposition forget their quest and hang their trainers up. It certainly nullifies my previous “smug” stance anyway.

I don’t think I’ll read that page from now on.


Being Tired, and The Great North Run

Last night’s session at the gym was a bit rubbish really. I went with the intention of not running at all, seeing as I felt a big groggy. But, no sooner had a I laced up my trainers, I thought the treadmill was a good idea.

I decided to run without Woman, and it was lucky I did, as after about 3.5km my body gave in. It was just tired. Bored. Both maybe. I ended up walking for the next 10 minutes whilst I waited for Sarah to finish her session with Girlie (who, I did not realise, is actually a Man…awkward).

I couldn’t really do much else really either. I think I did about 5 minutes on the rowing machine, and did a bit of leg work on the weights kit, but I was in the shower well within the hour.

It was all rather demoralising really. However, thanks to the wonders of science, I may have found some form of consolation.

Sarah’s all-singing, all-dancing heart monitor has been tracking everything we have been up to all week, and according to the very clever looking charts on the website/software, we should really have avoided “high intensity workouts” for 24-48 hours over the weekend. It turns out that our big walk up in the Yorkshire Dales was a heavier workout than I figured.

My imagination alternates between this room of scientists working out my fitness levels, and Chloe O'Brien in CTU hacking her way to the truth.

Anyway, so today I rested. Which was apt, as I ended up watching other people running on TV. The Great North Run. My friend Scott was up there somewhere, and despite completely inadequately training, he actually turned in a semi-decent / non-walking time of 2h10m.

Watching running is far harder work than actually running, I can assure you. And the BBC are especially annoying in their direction. Particularly how it is exactly the same every year. I would have had no clue if I was watching a repeat or something live. And every year, despite the fact that we can receive transmissions from Mars, the camera on the back of that motorbike always breaks and cuts out during the more interesting moments.

“Up North” they don’t seem to bother with implementing any crowd barriers, and all of the crowd kept jumping onto the road behind the elite runners, just to get in camera shot. Which was fine, apart from the fact that they jumped directly into the path of the rear cyclists who nearly fell off their bike more than once. What is it about the general public and their idiotic need to get onto a camera for 3 seconds?

My last observation was the high proportion of normal fun/club runners who are ridiculously skinny vs muscular. Skinny is never a good look on a man, and unless you are an Olympic marathon runner, I can’t see it being very easy getting through a normal life looking like one. Plus they all insist on wearing equally skinny vests and tiny shorts. They look weird and they are enough to put anybody off taking up running. Even me, during my lazier moments.

I couldn’t even watch the whole run, for crying out loud. That’s how lazy I was today. Dear God, will I ever complete this quest?


So, guess what? I’ve done another road run, and this time it was 8.2km for crying out loud.

Proud? Gloating? Me? Pah!

Anyway, looking beyond the fact that I covered a rather respectable distance (I shan’t say ran, seeing as I’m only doing what I’m told and half-running when “she” tells me), a bigger question lies begging to be asked.

Why the hell do slopes hurt so much????

The picture above is a fairly decent example of my point.

Tonight’s run included a stretch of road we locals refer to as “Keele bank”. This is basically a slightly evaluated area, beneath which sits Newcastle and Silverdale (my previously mentioned childhood village). Now, although I appreciate that there is an elevation issue to be tackled by travelling from the bottom of a hill to the top, the road is that long that the gradient is barely noticeable. I’m not an expert on gradient percentages or anything, but be assured, I’m not running up a proper hill.

Nonetheless, whereas my current stretch of time running on the flat feels relatively good, running up a barely noticeable slope KILLS ME.

I’m wracking my brain for the science behind it. I mean, it isn’t like I’m having to raise my knees any higher to pick my feet up and make a proper climb. We are probably talking about an increase of 1cm per footfall. How can that have a bearing on the body? I’m implying it shouldn’t, but it does. And after running 4km, to what is the highest elevation point on tonight’s run, I wanted to die. I wanted to curl up into a ball and forget this whole quest.

However, after almost rolling down an easy downhill section, my body stopped crying, and I got through the second half of flat running without too much heartache. Although I did have to walk up the bank back to my house for the last five minutes, because that really is a slope.


Today would be one of those old fashioned “Dear Diary” days. More than the usual criteria necessary to write a blog – something actually happened that, at least from my viewpoint, was rather important.

I spent the day painting the kitchen – the last of the rooms at home that needed a fresh lick of paint. Being such a cavernous space, the chore took me the best part of a day, even after starting quite early on.

By the time the evening was well and truly upon me, there was an obvious whiff of paint fumes lingering in the house, and I was sick to death of staring at the pale white, apple-y shade of wall – a massive departure from the pale white, apple-y shade of 24 hours ago.

Long story short, the treadmill wasn’t looking an appealing option at that minute. It was a pretty warm day, and there was the usual lack of a breeze coming into the house. Plus, I was starting Week 4, and “Woman” was expecting a big increase in performance from me….well, 30 seconds more running anyway.

And so I laced up my trainers and headed outside.

Actually, it wasn’t that spontaneous a moment. After shaking off the idea of getting onto the treadmill at about 6pm, I then sat down and thought about going outside. It was still pretty warm, and I figured that I should wait for the sun to go down, and maybe try things out at 8pm. That gave me 2 hours to think about it properly.

This all sounds rather pathetic. After all, I’m sure 95% of runners out there set out on Day 1 by walking out of their house and just putting one foot in front of the other.

But, as it stood, I was interval training. I was running for what was, to a third person, not a great deal of time, and then walking causally whilst my sweaty body recovered in a series of pants and wheezes, and my heart was deciding whether to leap out of my throat, or risk hanging around inside me for a while longer. This was not a good look to be sporting on my local pavements.

By 7pm, I decided that I could get over myself, and then turned back to my dear old iPhone to see if I could get some App support.

As previously, I already had an App in mind when I did so – the Nike + GPS program. Without going into too much detail, Nike + is a system which involves you popping a little sensor into the sole of expensive Nike trainers with a little hole to fit said sensor, and then either your iPod or a Nike watch can track your movements and make a good guess at your speed, distance and calories.

However, instead of paying £14 for a sensor, you can pay £1.99 for the Nike + App, which works with the GPS chip in the iPhone and basically removes the need for a sensor in your shoe, and live tracks you on GPS. This way, you get your speed stats, calorie count, as well as a pretty Google Maps-embedded illustration of your route, which is colour coded to show you the green parts, where you were actually running, and the red sections where you were walking and gasping for breath.

App installed, I rather cleverly dual-ran both the Nike App and my Couch to 10k App, meaning I would get the best of both worlds – GPS tracking, and “Woman” telling me when to run and when to walk.

Setting off, I already had a route in mind. My parent’s house was roughly 5km away according to Google Maps route. 5km sounded perfect, particularly as that was the sort of distance that my treadmill always tells me I’ve done once “Woman” allows me to stop.

In lieu of giving you a blow-by-blow account, let me just summarise and highlight by saying how much of a pleasure it actually turned out to be.

The day before, I had been speaking to my runner-colleague at work, and he was telling me how much more impact a road run has on your knees. I can’t really concur with that.

My route took me through Newcastle town centre, and then down the long, straight road to my old village, across a sports field and ultimately into my parents’ housing estate. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t find it difficult, because I really did. The interval training meant that I worked through about 4 or 5 sessions of running and walking by the time I reached the outskirts of my village, and by this point I was tired and ready to give up. Furthermore, a stitch suddenly developed on my right hand side – an enemy I recall well from my, what, three school cross country sessions.

I confess that I faltered on the next session when “Woman” asked me to run for two minutes again. However, after falling behind briefly, a ran a little longer during the walking bit to make up for it, and before I knew it I was at my parents’ driveway.

When I say “before I knew it” I mean it too. It took me just under 40 minutes to travel 5km (I know, rubbish, but let me get to my point). On the treadmill, when I thought I was pushing myself to optimum speeds, that same distance takes me the entire 50-60 minute interval training session. Clearly I was running much faster than I thought I could.

Outside my parents’ gates, I could hear them sat out on the patio enjoying the evening, so I decided to shout to them to get their attention. It was only at this stage, letting out a breathy, high pitched “Hello!?” that I realised that I was actually worn out. My voice was so distorted by my run that a further two shouts didn’t convince my parents to come to unlock the gate for me. Which left me ringing their phone and telling them where I was. It turns out I sounded like a neighbour. A female neighbour no doubt.

I was offered a welcome glass of orange squash, and my parents looked at me rather proudly, seeing me sat with them in a t-shirt and a pair of shorts and trainers. It was at that point that I remembered that the last time they had likely seen me in such a combination of items would have been at my Year 6 sports day. And even then, failing to win any races, I hadn’t made them proud in any sporty sense.

I told them about my plans to run a 10km run, and this seemed to send them back into their original mindset, thinking I was rather delusional, but cute for imagining I could do such a thing. They then asked me if I was planning to run back home for another 5km, but when I looked at the clock and realised Sarah was due home from work 20 minutes later, I sheepishly asked for a car ride home. This seemed to settle my parents’ worries that I was an imposter, and Dad drove me home.

Back home, I logged onto the Nike website and checked my data out. It all read rather well, if I do say so myself. And there is something to be said, something rather rewarding, at being able to look at a map and seeing a decent-sized line drawn upon it, knowing that was you not too long ago.

There is also a much more friendly lady who talks to you through your earphones on the Nike App. She told me when I had run a kilometre, and then would tell how long I had been running for and what my average pace was. “Lady” is much nicer than “Woman,” but both are equally important to me during a run.

In conclusion, I dare say that I’m going to be returning to the local roads. I thought I’d be freaked out at being seen in public, but after not dripping in sweat – clearly thanks to the airflow caused when actually travelling during a run – I was only about as 10% as sweaty as indoors. And I figured that when people drive past me during my 2 minute run sessions, they will only assume I’ve been running for miles. And if someone sees me walking, they’ll just think I’m walking home on a cool down or something. And if the worst comes to the worst, and someone thinks I’m unfit? Well, I should just remember that I hate the general public anyhow.

This would be a good moment to misquote Doc Brown in an appropriate manner. But I figure it would be a bit pathetic.





Running Magazines

Sarah bought me a magazine called “Men’s Running” the other day.
It’s quite interesting that they are clearly capable of filling a magazine with enough articles each and every month. I personally would get writer’s block after scribbling the word “run” in capitals in the middle of my notepad
The same thing has always fascinated me about all of these sorts of fitness publication. Surely, after a few months, you have shown everyone enough ways to get “beach buff”, and explained proper diets, and you can surely sit back and stop writing, safe in the knowledge that every man now “gets” the whole fitness lark.
Obviously, these people want to sell magazines, so they keep tweaking their angles each month, and show you how to get buff in each season, and what do eat alongside each said regime.
When it comes to “Men’s Running”, my magazine told me about diet myths and tried to explain how to train on a busy schedule. Which is all well and good, but once again there is the assumption that you can at least run a fair few miles when you pick up the mag. Telling me to do a mixture of fast and long runs, along with one run up a steep slope each week isn’t very inspiring right now.
The magazine is also full of gadget and shoe reviews. It seems that, much like me, the “man runner” is as keen to shop for new things as he is to trim a minute off of his marathon.
For more than a brief moment, my eye was caught by a rather expensive looking Nike watch-cum-GPS tracker thing. Which would really be quite daft at the moment (“you are still stood on a treadmill in your kitchen…and you are still slow”).
There was also a little article showing a picture of some rather happy men holding medals after completing “my” Bupa 10km. Great. Another reminder.
However, I have to admit I’ve learnt a few things from reading this magazine, and the main thing is that it explains that you can’t expect to lose weight running, unless you also overhaul your diet too.
That sort of made sense, but I was hoping that the 500 extra calories a run was burning would have at least some impact. However, after losing a few kilos in the first week (according to my bathroom scales anyway) I’m not dropping below 80kg at the minute. This would also explain to me why I see people run rather impressive distances with rather unimpressive waist sizes.
Which is fine, seeing as I’ve never been too worried about weight. As long as running, and ultimately the gym, can tone up my spare tyre, then I’ll be happy. I think I’ve started an intervention just before the dreaded “point of no return”. I can still see my toes when standing, and I don’t have an overhang over my belt.
I reckon a good run can suck in this gut of mine, no matter what this magazine has written for the 17th time.

I was right…

So I thought I’d prove the theory I set out in my first entry – you can’t find any blogs about truly rubbish runners.

They all start of implying they are beginners, but then you read past their opening blurb, and at it’s all “…did a really difficult 10 miles this morning. I’ll never run a marathon in 3 weeks at this rate.”

Listen, blogosphere – you aren’t beginners at running. Me and the man with half a lung, or perhaps the woman over there just learning to use her new prosthetic leg, are proper beginners. Stop it!

Or Homer

If you want to see if a really unfit bloke can churn out a decent time in a proper race in a few months time, then stay tuned. I know I’m god-damned curious!