"I'd rather be seen on my bicycle than on a park run" - Quote from the dark side

Saturday, 31 October 2009

To cut or not to cut

I’ve been lucky over the years with running shoes and have had very few shoe problems. I found my brand many years ago and stuck to it. I believe in “if it works, why change it?” It seems to me that certain shoes work better for certain feet and running styles. Some just don’t work at all and over the years this hasn’t change much. However, for some unknown reason, shoe manufacturers often change a fantastic shoe from one year to the next into a very bad shoe. For some reason the model from one year to the next never stays exactly the same, even if the current model is absolutely perfect.

This has happened to me a few times and it really irritates me. Why change a good thing? In the past I’ve tried different models or brands when this happens. If possible I stay with the same brand and go for a different model, but I’ve never been able to change brands successfully. By the way, I run with Nike Pegasus. Years back I noticed Bruce Fordyce running with shoes that had the toes cut open. He obviously wasn’t paying for his shoes like us normal runners, but this got me thinking. Why not stay with my favorite shoe and just cut away the area that bothers me. This obviously only applies if the problem is something that can be removed physically.

I tried this with an older pair of Nikes years ago and cut away a piece of the upper sole that was giving me blisters. The results were great! I now had my perfect shoe…my favorite without any problem areas. Luckily this doesn’t happen very often, but the current models of my favorite shoes have a black “support structure thingy” between the actual sole and the upper part of the shoe. With my style of running I find that after some time (about 500km), the inner sole gets lower and the black thingy presses against my foot and leave me with blisters.

So, after careful consideration, I decided to cut the thingy off. I’ve done this on the oldest pair I currently run in, but will most probably do the same with my newer pair. The shoes are now great and I wonder what the black thingy actually does. Older models didn’t have this and were fine. Well, I suppose they had some reason for introducing it, but for now, I’m cutting. So my shoe has gone from this…

to this…

very similar to the older models without a black thingy.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Comrades Entries - 15000

So the entries for previous Comrades runners have reached the 15000 mark 4 days before the closing date. This is quite remarkable and I’m sure the 5000 places for novices will fill up very quickly. I’m glad I entered early as I’m sure there must be a lot of very disappointed runners out there who didn’t get an entry. If you are a novice planning to run next year, make sure you enter early to avoid disappointment. Remember, 1 November entries for novices will start!

I’m sure we can now look forward to a race with 20000 entries. I think there will be about 18000 starters in the end. It’s still a long time away (214 days) and one can’t really be sure that you’ll be there yet. Well, I’m training hard and so far everything is looking good. At the moment I’m 100% certain I’ll be there on 30 May 2010.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Running Races

Runners are always warned not to race to often. In South Africa we are spoilt with many races and I usually have a few to choose from every weekend. Yet, this warning doesn’t apply to me at all. The main reason is that I just run to slow and that’s that. I can’t easily overdo the racing at my pace. So I do lots of races throughout the year, but these are run as normal training runs with the added bonus of great company and water points with nice goodies. I do however run a lot less races than I did 10 – 15 years ago.

There was a time when I would run 2 to 3 and sometimes even 4 races per week (Wednesday night race, Friday night race, Saturday morning race & Sunday morning race). This was all about chasing the race kilometers. But that was in a different life with a different body. Nowadays I choose to run a training run at home more often and don’t go to every possible race anymore. I don’t often run more than 15 – 20km on my own and don’t plan to run more than 25km like that this year. My plan for the rest of 2009 includes 2 x 20km and 2 x 25km training runs. I’m not likely to run further than 25km as a training run alone, although there are a 50km and a 100km run in the back of my mind, but that’s a different story.

From January 2010 to Comrades I’ll run quite a lot of races, but I’ll only treat one as a race. That will be my qualifying marathon and I suppose the Comrades itself, but I’m definitely not planning on racing the Comrades. All the others will be normal training runs with no tapering or other race specific stuff. They’ll be part of my normal weekly training and run at normal training pace. In my case this means there is no chance of overdoing the racing.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Be Flexible

Being flexible with my running schedule is very important to me. I’m very committed and will not miss a planned run easily, but due to a busy life between work and home I have to change my running plans form time to time.

My general schedule is to run six days a week, Tuesday to Sunday, with Monday a rest day. I’ve made this a rule, I never run on Mondays. So if anything happens and I can’t run on Sunday, I’ll have two rest days. I never use Monday to “catch up” on the run I missed on Sunday. I also rest Sunday and Monday when I do a long run or race on a Saturday.

This weekend turned out to be one of those. I planned a 4km run for Saturday and 15km for Sunday. I was looking forward to this since I’ve been feeling really good after the few days break at the beginning of the week. It turned out that I had to work this weekend though…Sunday morning 2am to 6am. Not the greatest hours of the day for work, but from time to time I have to work some odd hours. Luckily I’m one of not that many people who are passionate about my work and the only downside to the odd hours is the conflict with my running plans.

That said I’ve learnt over time that the downside runners tend to see when something messes with their running plans is actually a positive most of the time. More rest and more recovery time are never bad. I see any missed run as more rest and more recovery and always feel the benefit in the weeks to follow.

So I did my Sunday 15km on Saturday and will run Tuesday again. This means I get extra rest time and only miss 4km as result of the weekend work. The two days without running also helps me to recover from the lack of sleep over the weekend. All in all, by being flexible, I’m a happy camper with a great balance between work, running and life in general.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Best Time of Day for the Best Performance?

Well, the 3 days rest did the trick and my legs are feeling good again. My run this morning felt great and I can once again remind myself of the benefits of resting. Although I felt great and everything was perfect my time was not particularly fast. This got me thinking about a question I’ve always asked. When is the best time of the day for the best performance?

I run early in the morning, usually somewhere between 04:00 & 06:00 on week days. On weekends I run an hour or two later and find that my times are always better when I run a bit later. Between 06:00 & 08:00 seems to be my best time for good performance. If I run later than 08:00 my performance drops again mainly because the fuel tank is empty by then. This is worse when I didn’t eat a proper meal the night before. If I take in some fuel for the run all is fine again and performance is much better than very early in the morning. Some of my best runs have also been at night races and one or two races run in the afternoon.

I suppose this has something to do with one’s internal clock. It seems that I can run a faster time later in the morning or day with the same effort I have to put in for a slower time early in the morning. I don’t worry too much about this because I’m a slow runner anyway, but I always wonder if it is better to go for fast times a bit later in the day. That is of course if it isn’t the middle of summer with very high temperatures. For me the perfect time seems to be late morning in the colder months.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Rest When You Need To Rest

Over the years I’ve learnt that resting is very good for any runner during any part of training. I suppose all runners know this and we know how good we run after some rest. Yet, we don’t like to add some extra rest to our running schedules. I’m really guilty with this one and very seldom rest more than my regular rest day on Mondays.

I try to follow a rule that I came across in one of Bruce Fordyce’s books. If you’re not sure whether you should run or not, always choose not to. If you’re not sure whether you should run a longer or shorter distance, always choose the shorter distance. Whenever I have doubt about running or not or how far to go, I follow this rule. If I don’t have doubt about any of these two, I just go out and run what I planned. There are no excuses then and I do what I have to do.

This works well for me, but it’s still difficult to take rest when needed and not as part of the plan. My upper legs are currently taking some strain and this past weekend I decided to skip my long run on Sunday. I’ve decided to rest until Wednesday when I’ll take a short run to see how I feel. So that means 3 days with no running. The benefit should be great. I’ll also skip a midweek long run and only go for a long run Sunday again if I feel recovered. If there is any doubt, I’ll follow the rule again until I recover completely. I’ve run 6 days a week for 7 continuous weeks now and taking it easy for a week or two will work wonders.

Friday, 9 October 2009


I ran a relaxed 6km run this morning. My upper legs are sending a few messages of taking it easy so I decided to listen. It was a beautiful morning with some loose clouds in the East. The sunrise was spectacular changing from red to pink to gold. As I enjoyed the moment I couldn’t help to think about Bruce Fordyce’s latest article on www.runnersworld.co.za called “Running with music”.

I agree 100% with Bruce on this one. Everything he mentions is exactly my thoughts as well. As I looked at the pink clouds I could hear dozens of birds enjoying the perfect morning. I realized again, this is why I run. This is why it’s easy to get out of bed and onto the road every morning. I felt so motivated and knew then why I don’t need anything else to motivate me. Music would have spoiled that moment.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Where am I now?

As I’ve said the main focus for the next 8 months will be to build up for the Comrades marathon on 30 May 2010. That seems far away, but for someone like me with a total lack of natural running ability it’s not that long before the race.

So where am I now? I’m currently in a process of building up from scratch after a long lay off from running. I now run 15km with ease and will progress to 20km in the next few weeks. My plan is to be able to run 25km comfortably by the end of the year. I’ve decided not to go further than 25km this year. I plan to do 3 x 25km runs towards the end of the year. This should give me a good base to start the serious buildup in January.

I’m using Don Oliver’s training program as a guide
and my monthly distance will be very close to his plan. See www.alsoranrunners.info for his training program and some great advice for Comrades. His plan includes the 32km RAC Tough One in November, but I’ve decided to skip that this year. I’ll probably be able to do it, but I think I’ll do more damage than good to my body if I run the race. I want to be 100% injury and niggle free at the start of 2010. I used Don’s program in the past and it works well for me.

I run 6 days a week with Monday a rest day. I run early in the morning and my wakeup time is anything from 04:00 to 04:50 depending on the distance I want to run and where I have to be at what time for work. I love the mornings and really find this the best part of the day. It’s a great feeling to get to work knowing I’ve done my training for the day.

The biggest challenge for me at the moment is to get a body that is 13 years older than it was with my last Comrades in shape. Everything seems to be happening a lot slower than before. The main problem is loosing weight. 10 – 15 years ago I lost weight 10 – 15 times quicker…or so it feels anyway. I know I reached higher fitness levels a lot sooner as well. But this does not get me down. I’m very motivated and everyday I look forward to the next day’s run. Dedication has never been a problem for me and getting back to a complete running lifestyle is very exciting.

Monday, 5 October 2009

So, I’ve started my “big return”

In 2010 the Comrades marathon in South Africa will be a very special event. It will be the 85th Comrades and will also be run shortly before the FIFA soccer world cup starts in South Africa. For these reasons the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) decided to make it a special year. Entries will be capped at 20000 and a special medal will be on offer.

I decided that this is a good year to make a very long overdue comeback to the race. I finished the race in 1997 and now, 13 years later, I plan to do it again. I also decided that this is the perfect time to start another overdue affair, a running blog.

I’ve been thinking about starting a running blog for some time now. I suppose it can be a good thing as this will act as a motivation tool as well. After all, I can’t blog about not training or not running or not going for my goals. So in that sense it can only be good. Where it can be bad is that I’ll most likely update the blog a lot more than I would my performance testing blog, which might suggest that I’m more passionate about running than performance testing, or work for that matter. And that is not true at all. I’m one of the lucky people that have a passion for what I do for a living.

So I’ve made the decision to start this running blog at last. Now where to start? I’m not going to blog about the past, but maybe as a start I can give a short history of my running and why I’m so passionate about it.

Running has been a part of my life since I can remember. I was not at school yet when my dad started running for a low blood pressure problem. He ran early every morning without fail for many, many years. Just for the blood pressure. He didn’t train for a race or anything like that. His dedication still inspires me today. The only race related memory I have of those days is that of listening to the radio commentary of the Comrades marathon in the 1970’s. I remember hearing names like Alan Robb, Graeme Frazer, Tony Abott and of course later Bruce Fordyce. I remember picturing the race in my mind while listening to the radio.

In 1981 my dad came home one evening with entry forms for the SABC TV road race. There was a half marathon and a 10km race. He decided the whole family would run. And that’s exactly what we did. Dad, my brother and I ran the 21,1km. Mom and my two sisters ran the 10km. That’s where my running career started. My first official race, the 1981 SABC TV 21,1km road race. I was in standard 10 (grade 12), my last year at school.

So here I am, many years later, 46 years old, training to run the Comrades marathon again after 13 years. I call this blog “Run Tall, Walk Tall”, a mantra I’ve been using for many years when I battle or go through a bad patch on a run. The next eight months will be primarily focused on the buildup to Comrades on 30 May 2010, when I’ll tackle the 89km run.