The aim of this Blog is to hopefully paint a picture of the joy I get from running off road
Choosing where and when you run may come down to practicalities like the weather, friends availability or family commitments but try to make some time for a purely emotional choice, every now and then.
I’m lucky enough to only live a fifteenth minute drive from the coast and a twenty five minutes drive inland to the South Downs Way (SDW). Coastal trails may not always get the kudos their countryside cousins enjoy but todays Solent sunset was breath taking. Hampshire has so much to offer, it might be Winter but get outdoors and you’ll be rewarded.
While contemplating my latest jog I decided to consolidate Wednesdays 5K with one more before moving up to five miles. So the challenge was to maximise around 32/33 minutes as my mobility returns after a fall. The late afternoon decision was an easy one, yes, I was off to see the sunset. I parked at Hill Head then mapped an out and back 1.55 miles to make a 5K route below the Chilling cliffs.
The beach offers a softer surface, with less impact on your body, but in many ways you are working harder to achieve the same distance. The reduced stress on my ankles, knees and hips was apparent almost immediately, so I knew I’d made the right choice, but the motivation for my seaside session was emotional rather than technical.
Why is a coastal run so rewarding ? Setting off at 4pm I knew I’d be treated to both views of the Isle of Wight and the sun disappearing below the horizon. I don’t mind admitting I was feeling the same glow of warmth inside me as I was witnessing before me.
The sunset was due at 4.36 so I’d already arrived in golden hour, complete with the orange glow shimmering on the sea like a “yellow brick road” layered onto the Solent. My running shadow was still with me for the time being but the sun was sinking fast, I decided to take a quick video to try and capture the beautiful light and colours that nature was displaying. This clip is 40 seconds long and no matter how much I try to paint a picture with my words, it’s a snapshot to cherish as a memory.
There’s a rhythm to the sea as the waves ebb and flow, a rhythm that hasn’t changed for thousands of years. Perhaps this expected and predictable feature is what relaxes us and lifts our mood. I’ve read that this experience is called blue therapy. There were a number of walkers out along my route as I headed towards the Solent Breezes caravan sites and it’s safe to say we were all enjoying our free blue therapy.
In many ways your physical activity matches the waves rhythm, your breathing almost seems to match the lapping motion of the salt water, it’s like your running is connecting you to the sea. This might sound a bit pretentious but feeling part of your surroundings can be emotional and empowering. Granted the tide was out but I still felt the waters energy.
I’m sure the years of happy beach memories were being rethought somewhere in the back of my mind and who hasn’t left a trip to the coast without a smile a sense of positivity. Today wasn’t about sun tan lotion and ice cream, it was barely above freezing, but the cold heightened your senses and you appreciate the fact that you made an effort to enrich your afternoon.
My pace was relatively slow and naturally the crunching of the shingle and the sinking feeling of the sand didn’t lend itself to speed but I’m not at that point in my recovery to even worry about what my garmin says. I’ve walked numerous times through January and added various daily stretches in a bid to add flexibility and movement to resolve a fall five weeks ago.
I appreciate five weeks is no time to be injured, and I did have physio but as it was on the back of other previous niggles. I enjoyed the fruits of my efforts even more on this wintery Saturday afternoon. Ultimately I guess the work that you put into your training results in having opportunities like today.
I will definitely return, in weeks to come, to add the strength and endurance training that beach running offers but for the moment I’ve simply enjoyed the salt flavoured breeze and my mindfulness / wellbeing cup being topped up with sea water !!
Thanks for reading
Over the years I have to admit I’ve taken my running for granted. It’s always been there, all you need to do is lace up your trainers and off you go. Call up some friends, agree the time and place then enjoy a physical, social and sensory couple of hours. If you read no further than this opening paragraph, enjoy your running, embrace it, make the most of it but never take it for granted.
Over the last year I’ve had a string of injuries, interruptions and frustrations that have meant inconsistent training. That last sentence isn’t meant to sound like I’m looking for sympathy, naturally there are thousands of people who would love to exercise but it’s beyond them. I simply have to wait for strains to heal and try to manage my commitments better.
However, when running has been a part of your weekly life for over thirty years these inactive spells become more frustrating with each occurrence. We don’t have to run, no one is telling us to, we simply have a desire and a need to run. In many ways when you aren’t running it’s a case of changing your goals rather than giving up on them.
After falling and injuring back muscles four weeks ago I’ve progressed with physio, mobility stretching and lots of walking. With it being January I’ve also stopped drinking alcohol for a month and tried to increase my water intake, after all, if I’m missing out on burning 200/300 calories an hour, these will be positive steps while biding my time until a return to full fitness.
Clearly when you’re sidelined there’s an element of FOMO, yes, the fear of missing out but along with the running highs that our chosen hobby gives us there are so many elements that we don’t consider while we are fit and well.
Your focus and health are greatly improved when active but conversely your mind, immune system and mood can be negatively effected when you aren’t, this can then contribute to a reduction in your “get up and go”. This sluggish feeling inevitably makes us unhappy, stressed and grumpy. The next phase that follows this could well be a loss of self esteem and even confidence, both of which, could eventually trigger depression.
Our sleeping habits can be effected due to us not having used up our energy through the day. Rest is necessary for life generally as well as recovering from sporting activities. Getting into bed knowing you’ve been out that day or you have a run planned for the morning means you finish off that evening happy.
Even the very basics of running help you with your heart and lungs working hard to supply extra oxygen to your muscles. We need to try and hold onto this triple benefit if possible.
So, while we are trying to cope with a lack of serotonin and endorphins, consider ways to apply yourself rather than dwell on being disappointed, it’s better to try and channel your efforts with good habits.
In recent weeks I haven’t run so instead I’ve walked most days. You still breath in that stimulating fresh air and have a sense of achievement by getting a sweat on. Walking might be slower than running but it’s still helping your metabolism, burning calories and provides a cumulative motivation. Being determined and following it through works the same regardless of whether you are running at speed or walking steadily.
I’ve noticed that even in smaller doses the effort you put in is rewarded by rejuvenating your spirit. I’ve reached my 4 m.p.h. target and today I jogged two miles.
Twenty two minutes of jogging brought me huge satisfaction and ought to pave the way to my measured return. As an incentive I’m holding off wearing my new road shoes until I jog 5K which should be fairly soon now.
As part of my positive approach I also spectated at Stubbington 10K so that meant I felt part of our local running community. Seeing lots of familiar faces meant I left with a big smile on my face from joining in, with clapping and words of encouragement.
I’ve been watching adventure videos on youtube to inspire me and from this I intend to try and combine some camping and running in 2023. This added dimension wouldn’t necessarily have crossed my mind if I hadn’t been sidelined and looking for motivation. I particularly like Loyd Purvis with his Run 4 Adventure, Paul Coates videos (a good friend of mine) and the Film My Run channel with Steve Cousins.
For this running and outdoor footage don’t sit on the couch, exercise while you watch, so as to feel part of that running community spirit. While viewing you can stretch, bend, twist and add strength exercises like squats and knee lifts, depending on what has stopped you running.
In summary, don’t take your running for granted, in many ways running is a lifestyle that provides you with endless benefits. Once you’ve bought your kit then it’s essentially free (well almost) and remember the physical and mental activity that you engage in today will stand you in good stead for tomorrow, whether tomorrow is twenty four hours away or ten years away.
Keep it going, use it or loose it and when life gets in the way of your running, take a step back and consider your options, reassess what you can control and get back on track.
Thanks for reading, enjoy your running in 2023.
January is the prefect time to give your health a well earned boost, the Christmas excess has passed and quite frankly I’ve been snacking between meals too. Enough is enough !!
31 alcohol free days will give your body time to reset and more importantly kick start a weight loss plan as we head towards Spring and Summer. Added bonuses like increased concentration, saving some money and a sense of achievement will all fuel the motivation.
Combining drinking more water will also add to the benefits, so all in all, that ought to mean more energy and better sleep too. Naturally at the end of your working week the prospect of a few drinks to unwind will be tempting but in previous years I’ve managed to go into March before my first pint.
If water sounds boring then there’s always squash and while I’m looking for healthy gains then green tea will reduce the caffeine too.
One final benefit is that alcohol can be an irritant to your stomach so there ought to be a reduction in symptoms of reflux where the stomach acid burns your throat.
Don’t get me wrong I’m no saint but all of these positive impacts can then be combined with your five a day fruit and veg for a fantastic January detox. I have to say I’d be happy not to see any chocolate or sweet deserts for some time !!
Good luck to anyone else joining in, the results will be worth it. I’ll keep a weekly update of my progress.
Thanks for reading
The phrase “age is just a number” may well mean you don’t approach your training any differently from a psychological point of view but as we age the physical side inevitably catches up. So, maybe the answer is coupling this “glass half full” mindset with the right physical regime to then let us enjoy our running for as long as possible.
I have been guilty of some bad habits in recent years and as we look towards 2023 I thought I’d share my thoughts, especially after watching this excellent video from James Dunne, that really hit home this point now that I’ve reached 60.
I’ve attached the video from James and in many ways you could stop reading now. Why read on ? Well I’ve been running for over thirty years so if nothing else I have some experience to draw on, even if I haven’t got the expertise like James.
Naturally I’ve asked for his permission to include the video in my blog. This five minute production offers you a lesson in good habits that are worth their weight in gold. You might already incorporate his advice in your training but I know I took away changes for mine that will stand me in good stead.
For as long as I can remember my non running friends have pointed out that it’s quicker to catch the bus than run ten miles, that I’ll end up with bad knees or even that once you reach a certain age there’s no need to exercise. We take this kind of banter on the chin because running and exercise are lifestyle choices that undoubtedly make a difference to both our physical and mental health.
In short, we know that our future health has had its foundations laid and that the years of building blocks we’ve built up through exercise will pay dividends.
A recent men’s health forum MOT suggested the following figures. Eat your 5 a day of fruit and veg, be active 150 minutes a week, drink 14 or less units of alcohol a week and work on having a 36 inch or less waist line. Currently I tick all of these boxes but as we age it does become more challenging. Apologies for not having a similar ladies chart but you get the general idea.
What keeps us striving to improve or maintain our form over the years ? Naturally every race is a competition but ultimately you are always running against yourself. The general public has had Mr Motivator or Joe Wicks to keep them energised, in running it tends to be our fellow runners, being involved with the wider running community and personal goals.
In recent years I have definitely developed an old mans shuffle, sprinting is out due to blood pressure so consistency needs to be my watch word. The shuffle is partly due to the long distance trail running that I prefer as opposed to speedy 10K’s.
Do I factor in enough strength work ? No. Historically I’ve always had power in my legs and my quads go all the way back to living at the top of a hill in Devon which meant repeated elevation until I bought a moped at sixteen but now, more than ever, the strength work that I haven’t been paying attention to is finding me out injuries wise.
Secondly, once an injury has been resolved I’m guilty of trying to catch up too soon and guess what happens, without the necessary recovery and strength I get caught out again. This loop of frustration needs breaking.
With 2023 on the horizon my goals are clear, “use it or loose it”, strength, recovery and consistency plus some cross training for good measure. Watch the video, maybe twice and draw the inspiration that I have had to set the road / trails ahead of you for years to come. Make the most of your running, after all if you look after your legs, your legs will look after you.
Thanks for reading
LOTS of parkrun people, the abbreviation LOTS stands for Lee on the Solent which was the Hampshire venue for Fareham Running Clubs takeover of volunteering and supporting roles on September 17th. As a long standing member of FRC I popped down to the coast to offer my services on this bright crisp morning. The parkrun philosophy has always been inclusivity with everyone welcome, I’m sure that on the day we achieved that. Giving something back to your chosen sport is always satisfying so it’s a win -win.
Before I go any further I’d like to credit the official parkrun photographer from the day, Peter Soddard for the images in my blog. This was event 313 and had 418 finishers with 66 PB’s !!
On my arrival the scene was set for another coastal parkrun with views across to the Isle of Wight and the chatter of anticipation. I didn’t have a specific role assigned to me but as is often the case two opportunities presented themselves as the morning unfolded.
In amongst the gathered runners and walkers I spotted Paula Williams who was coordinating our club’s efforts to facilitate the fun. As with all parkruns the set up, funnel staff, timers, token takers, barcode scanners, marshals and coordinators were all in evidence as well as our club supplying numerous pacers. I think it’s a pretty good chance that the pacers would have contributed to many of the 66 PB’s.
I decided to make my way along the coast to see what part I could play. Within a hundred meters or so I stopped to chat with Sarah Macbeath. Her role was to marshal the cluster of small rocks that are just off the promenade. With a field of 400 + it was clear that the starting line would be some fifty or so people wide and that the folks at the front would want to merge onto the prom as quickly as possible.
With the prospect of hundreds of well intentioned runners charging straight for her I asked if she’d like another “rock marshal” on the grounds that doubling our forces would hopefully mean less chance of any accidents.
If you have a sharp eye you will see in the photo below there are two of us pointing in the opposite direction to the rest of humanity !! Sarah’s fair hair and placard can be spotted with the “40” on its reverse. The phrase “Caution Rocks” was written on the sign, a phrase that we both shouted out along with “Mind the rocks” and for my part I decided that the volume of my safety advice was the best bet.
Within less than a minute a good proportion of the field had passed us by and we both agreed it had been quite exhilarating. No one tripped, no one ran into us and there were numerous “Thank you Marshals” so all in all it was job done. Top marks Sarah.
With the drama of the start behind me I chatted with a few of our club members who were manning the finish funnel and also the photographer from our local paper, The News. Here’s a selection of our club volunteers below with Mel, Rebecca and Co. then me, far left. These volunteers were centered around the funnel, however, we had guys up and down the length of the course.
I chatted with Ed and Mick Macenri who I haven’t seen in a long time and Mick mentioned his wife Liz was one of the pacers. The nature of this parkrun is an out and back route along the prom so as the guys got into their positions I looked around for my next contribution.
I didn’t have to look a lot further than my “Caution Rocks” pal Sarah as she was safeguarding one of the large litter bins, as, by the time the parkrunners have returned along the Prom these black bins do merge into the background and would present a painful experience with a collision.
So, yes you guessed it, I progressed from “Mind the Rocks” to “Mind the bin” it doesn’t get much more rock & roll than this but at the same time safety first has to be the answer for a successful event.
The funny thing about spectating / supporting / marshalling is that hundreds of people pass you with flashes of coloured kit, comments shouted out and to be honest it can be a bit of a blur !! I shouted encouragement as well as mind the bin to everyone that passed and name checked as many people as I could.
I think the first person I saw at the sharp end of the parkrun was Phil from our running club who is running the London marathon for charity. He will be wearing a large foam star and is hoping to break the Guinness world record time for a fancy dress marathon star. Through the morning I saw Mike, Simon and Andy, all friends that I’ve known for twenty five years or so from my Stubbington Green runner days. Added to this there were Gosport RR /Bayside Tri & 545 runners like Hayley and Lee, Fareham runners like Trevor and Chris. Well done everyone.
With the nature of people running past you and you only seeing them at the last minute I was pleased to see Emma Noyce from Gosport RR after she’d finished. She shouted “Hi” mid run but I wanted to congratulate her on her British Empire Medal. Emma is a keen open water swimmer, as well as runner, so we were on her patch by the sea. Congratulations Emma on your award.
In summary there were numerous positive comments on social media praising our clubs involvement so it was hats off to Paula for coordinating and a round of applause to all Fareham Running Club volunteers. Oh, and apparently there were a number of cakes donated too from the club, but sadly I had to leave before sampling any.
For my part it was great to see so many running friends and I thoroughly enjoyed helping out.
The phenonium that is parkrun continues to thrive, inspire and motivate both our local community and across the country. Octobers parkwalk will bring even more people into the fold. Exercise truly is a common denominator, we arrive from all walks of life and we leave glowing with the physical and emotional benefits. Your legs are empty but your heart is full.
Chipping in to volunteer is well worth it.
Thanks for reading, Roger
The definition of “putting your best foot forward” is to embark on an undertaking with as much effort and determination as possible. Saturdays heat meant my half marathon training run had strategic effort rather than maximum but the determination was set to max. Since starting this blog I’ve run a second Saturday 13.1 mile run so I’ll incorporate a few more thoughts.
We all go through different phases with our running and I’d like to try and explain why I believe I’m excited for the future. It’s inevitable that my running expectations are different now, at sixty, than they were when I was fifty, however, seeing as I’m only six weeks into this decade I’m keen to make the most of it.
I finally seem to have shaken off a number of niggles and with my newly found orthotics providing the foundation for increased mileage (literally) I can start to relive the joys of going out for a descent amount of time. My last endurance race was December 2019’s Portsmouth Coastal marathon, at last I feel like I can prepare for my next challenge.
The plan was to run 6.5 miles from Meonstock to Holden Farm and visit the newly established Cadence Cafe. The temperatures were in the balmy low to mid twenties but thankfully the cloud cover and sections of wooded areas meant I wasn’t too much at the mercy of this current heatwave.
The out and back nature of this run meant a 400 feet climb out of Exton but naturally the prospect of a lovely downhill finish. The theme for the day was to build on the last two weekends ten milers with a view to this being a springboard for the rest of the Summer and a launching pad for the Autumn.
As I limbered up outside the Meonstock village hall a smartly turned out, senior gentleman, walked passed and recalled that when he was in the army, stationed in London, they would run in Regents Park. I guess he lived locally and that park would have reminded him of the green pastures of home. As I set off on my run I pondered to myself now that my form is returning I have the fortune and opportunity to add to my running memories.
Fitness is often looked upon as a given, by others, but you have to work at it and if you don’t it takes some time to regain it. The beauty of this ebb and flow is that the journey back to fitness and endurance gives you an upward spiral of motivation, because, by definition you are out longer doing what makes you happy.
I can listen to and observe the world around me, the chance conversations with strangers, the changing landscape of the seasons and the knowledge that you are propelling yourself forward, under your own steam while reaping both the physical and emotional benefits. Another less obvious benefit is that as your confidence grows you relax more, you enjoy it more and when these two traits combine your mind starts to fully appreciate your progress. Pace isn’t a factor just let, it’s all about time on your feet.
The rising challenge that is Beacon Hill gave me my first reminder of both the heat and my fitness. The droplets of sweat that were running off my forehead and the need for occasional walks could have been regarded as negatives but the warmth of the sun on my back and the fact that the next time I run up this hill I’ll walk fewer times, all added to my cup half full mindset.
Reaching the trig point I turned and took a photo of the gate that marks the end of the climb, a symbolic wodden structure that you pass through when you’ve scaled your first objective. The remaining miles out to Holden Farm gave me wild flowers of many colours and a number of brief encounters with mountain bikers, walkers and a horse rider.
Once arriving at the farm I ventured round to the cafe. A selection of picnic tables and bike stands made for an inviting area with the functional but also quite stylish unit that had been open for business since 9 a.m. The manicured grass, a sprinkling of customers and the trees swaying in the light breeze all gave a sense of relaxation and calm. I mentioned I’d seen the cafe on Instagram and it only seemed fitting that I took a couple of photos to mark my visit. Naturally the first was the shot at the beginning of my blog, below is my sugar rush !! The cola and sweet jam on granary toast both hit the mark as my turn around pit stop. The funky blue benches with the Cadence logo showed the thought these guys have put into their project. Refreshed and replenished I bid my farewells and set off just as more people were arriving. It’s worth noting here payments are card only.
As I set off on the return 6.5 miles it struck me that the cafe and Holden Farm are almost spot on half way between Winchester and Exton / Meonstock so which ever way you are travelling it’s worth a visit.
I was met with a refreshing breeze as I set off again on the home leg of my South Downs run. Now, stopping mid run can sometimes be a physiological mistake but I do believe my recent hilly runs had set me up well for the remaining miles. Confidence and self belief are fantastic motivators and even though I incorporated a couple of strategic walking sections I’m a firm believer that walking with purpose can be just as constructive as a slow jog.
Life as well as running can be judged on benchmarks so it was great to see ten miles appear on my watch and know I had a good downhill section ahead, after all I’d earned these free miles from the efforts earlier in the morning.
As I approached my car I concluded that considering the heat I still had some more energy in the tank but I’d hold that back for next time. I’m a firm believer that you can draw on your past but the prospect of looking forward with anticipation gave me a buzz for the rest of the day and it was my first thought on Sunday morning.
Running has always given me satisfaction, knowing I can hopefully keep going to horizons further in the distance is exciting. As I mentioned it’s been a week since I started this blog so I’ll breifly add a couple more thoughts. My second Saturday was also a 13.1 mile run, this time up the Meon Valley trail, from Wickham to the Meonstock village shop and back. The shaded old railway line was perfect as there’s lots of tree cover from the heat. Both runs have averaged 11.5 minute miles which might sound slow but I’m thankful to be moving up the mileage and the positivity and motivation that comes from a second two and a half hour run far outweighs the need for speed.
In many ways I find distance running starts after the first hour, it’s a phycological time which generally means I’ve settled into a rhythm. The out and back nature of my run inevitably means that’s a two hour run once you’ve returned. All in all a long positive weekend run gives you the joy of looking forward to your mid week shorter efforts and the prospect of what’s to come !!
If you have been struggling with your form or motivation, hang in there, the good times will return.
Thanks for reading, Roger.
A favourite phrase of mine is “your health is your wealth” and having running as my main pastime, outside of work and family means I’ve stayed fairly healthy. Reaching my 60th birthday was initially a bit daunting but I have a lot to be thankful for, not least of which is being able to exercise in stunning locations which massively contribute to my overall wellbeing and physical condition.
June the 13th to the 19th is World Men’s Health week were men are encouraged to focus on their health, be aware of problems they could have developed and do something about it. One way to achieve this is exercising outdoors.
I think it’s really important to appreciate the beauty that’s around us. This blog has three photos from my recent May / June running, I hope to express the feelings that you can experience while taking in the countryside. Outdoor exercise really does give you a “Field” good factor 🙂
The first photo was taken at about 6.30pm after a long day wrestling with spreadsheets. Working in an office inevitably means sitting down for long periods and being surrounded by four walls. On arriving at the car park I had this particular field in mind as by the nature of the seasons I knew it would be a sea of yellow. I might have only been on the outskirts of town but I had been transported into a calm and tranquil place both visually and in my mind. All my spreadsheet thoughts had disappeared.
Spring is so uplifting, April’s bluebells have been and gone but the wild flowers come in waves, all you need to know is where to find them. Closer to hand the flowers are spread out but as you take in the brightly coloured meadow it reminded me of a painting where dots and splashes of sunshine yellow paint had been applied. Buttercups radiate happiness and optimism which, when combined with lush green grass and a clear blue sky, makes for a perfect palette of colours.
I’m not 100% sure which wild flowers these are in my second photo but this mauve cluster of plants really caught my eye while running through the South Downs national park. The trees dark green leaves blended and yet contrasted with the lighter green grass and the pale purple flowers. I say pale purple but in the bright midday sunshine you could pick out greys, blue and even violet shades.
While running through a national park you’d be expecting areas of outstanding natural beauty but in some ways pockets of vibrant joy can catch your eye just as easily. With the sun being directly overhead I guess you take in the sights around you to there fullest extent, sunrise and sunset naturally get all the attention but I feel the light is at its best under the noon sun.
What you can’t see and hear from this photo are the various insects flying, buzzing and generally interacting with both the flowers and me, ha ha. The heat, along with the view made me ponder that I could have been in The Alps rather than a few miles from Petersfield !!
My final field photo is a rising path between the crops which later in the Summer will be a field of gold. This man made track divides your view between the cultivated grain and the cotton wool clouds. Were as buttercups and other wild flowers don’t have a purpose this crop has been managed and will eventually be reaped and sold so there’s a structure to it, a reason and a goal, as opposed to the first two photos were nature has randomly sprinkled the flowers for pollinators and insects as food and shelter.
Inevitably I ran slower up the hill and this allowed me to take in the swishing and swaying almost as if I was running through a green sea. The tide wasn’t so much coming in or going out but making small circles. Not the crop circles that appear on the end of the evening news but circles that you could have made by dipping your hand in the sea.
The benefits of nature are well known and when you couple this with exercise then it’s a recipe for good healthy living. As Louis Armstrong famously sang ….
“I see trees of green, red roses too, I see them blossom for me and you, and I think to myself what a wonderful world”
Make the most of your time and health, hopefully it will repay you in the long run
Thanks for reading
I travelled up to Farnborough twice last weekend to absorb myself in this running community event. We were promised inspirational speakers, the latest kit, cutting edge technology, the best races, coaches, nutritional snacks and all under one roof. In short this had the makings of a truly memorable experience and it lived up to the billing.
On a personal note, the icing on the cake, was when Paula Radcliffe (our GB marathon phenomena) referenced my T shirt and commented, “I run off road too”, naturally, this made my day !! If this blog means too much reading, please skip to section 5 !! It might just change your life.
During the fifty mile drive home I decided to try and cherry pick my standout moments, rather than write an account of the whole event. Our venue, the impressive Farnborough International, set the tone for a first class weekend. Our hosts on the Inspiration Stage were Jo Pavey (5 time Olympian) and adventurer Danny Bent, both of whom seamlessly brought enthusiasm, knowledge and fun to the proceedings. Added to this free parking and concessionary tickets, then its a win – win. The venue and guys are pictured below.
1. Middle Distance running – Steve Cram
First things first, at the age of 61, Olympic gold medalist and presenter Steve Cram looks the picture of health, that combination of a lifetime involved with sport as well as the Sunderland air clearly agrees with him. Steve claimed never to have had a real job but to have been involved in what he loved all his life.
It’s probably worth pointing out at this stage that I arrived early, so as to get great vantage points. Typically there were hundreds of people in the audience behind me even if these photo suggests there were only a handful of us there !!
For the younger readers of this blog you will know Steve Cram as a presenter but for us older runners you will recognise him in the middle of the three guys on the screen off to the right of the stage. Bonus points for who else is pictured on the screen ??
Steve’s talk revolved around, “what running had done for him” and charted his early years when running the streets of Sunderland wasn’t the activity we’d take for granted these days, the use of a multistorey carpark for training, so as to include hills and avoid the weather, and the concept of multi day training, so as to build him into the champion that he became.
Steve was one of our top middle distance runners during the 80’s setting three world records in 19 days during 1985 for the 1,500m, 2,000m and the mile. It was interesting to hear Steve talk about his diet as a youngest that was influenced by his German mother. Steve’s trademark winding the speed up over the last 300 meters was no doubt fed by intense training and a good variety of food. A BBC Sports Personality of the year in 1983 and in 1999, an impressive 2.35 marathon time !!
When Steve talked about his commentating career he recalled his first attempt which could well have been his last as he was unexpectedly called upon to commentate on a race while his co-commentator wasn’t to hand. A combination of not knowing all the runners names or how to use the microphone amounted to a baptism of fire which was then coupled with swear words on the return of his colleague, that also went out on air, as Steve hadn’t turned off his mike. However, he is still a regular voice to this day on all the big athletics nights so practice clearly does make perfect.
2. Long Distance Running – Paula Radcliffe
With three London and New York marathon wins under her belt as well as numerous track and cross country wins on the world and European stage Paula’s greatest achievement was probably the 2003 London marathon time of 2.15.25 that stood as a world record for sixteen years !!
The mornings conversations had an added layer due to, our host, Jo Pavey’s running career chris crossing Paula’s so there were a number of insightful questions around negative splits, preparation and emotions which brought the historical facts to life.
One of Paula’s earliest anecdotes was that she’d attended the London marathon with her father at the age of ten and watched Ingrid Kristiansen which inspired her to become an athlete. Studying at Loughborough University would have meant great facilities for both sport and academic achievements and she certainly didn’t let having asthma slow her down.
Perhaps one of the greatest legacies an athlete can be remembered for is if they use their fame to give back to others. The Families on Track project is a great initiative that Paula has been developing. As well as encouraging her own children to be active and embrace healthy habits this project revolves around a lapped relay format with all the family contributing at different stages. So all ages and levels of fitness add up to an accumulated distance that they can all be proud of. Having fun together and developing their mental and physical fitness sounds like a great family bonding experience.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my blog it was an honor to say hello and have my photo taken. When I created this blog and called it “i run off road” the “i” was always meant to apply to everyone on the trails, not just me. It was a massive thumbs up when Paula immediately picked up on it.
3. Ultra Long Distance Running – Allie Bailey
After briefly introducing myself on Saturday and listening to her along with Dave Hellard and Jody Raynsford on Saturday, as part of the Bay Boy Running group / podcast, I was pleased to catch up early on Sunday to chat a little further with a person who has greatly promoted the recent decades activity of going beyond a marathon.
Allie’s videos, Instagram page and Facebook group (Ultra Awesome) show the infectious enthusiasm she has, as well as offering endless advice in a no nonsense way that means you know she isn’t doing it as a business, it’s coming from the heart.
I was interesting to hear what Allie had to say when I mentioned I hadn’t raced for some time and there was absolutely no judgement, choose you path and follow your own journey were typical of the generous spirit she offers everyone.
4. Running Exhibitors – My favorite three
There must have been one hundred names on the “who’s here” board so naturally over the two days I made my way around a large proportion of them and here’s a snippet of the best ones that I interacted with. The Club LaSanta Lanzarote complex has a world wide reputation and the photos looked fantastic with a 400m track, 50m pool, amazing scenery and the promise of activities from sunrise to sunset. The caption “Disneyland for Runners” made me smile but at the same time it looked quite accurate.
The Forestry England guys were kindred spirits and I had a great chat with them. Check out their Forest Runner 5K & 10K series from September 22 onwards. We talked forest bathing, I’ve previously blogged about this (just type it in the search bar) and I particularly like their marketing slogan of – Seek adventure, make memories and find your escape. I truly believe you don’t escape “from” your day to day life you escape “to” the countryside.
My third stall choice was a tie between meeting up with Umberto from Absolute 360 running and trying the Pulse Roll vibration technology. The Pulse Roll increases blood circulation, improves mobility and reduces muscle soreness, I guess you could say it was a massage gun to help in your recovery. I certainly felt the benefit on my calves !! Umberto is one of life’s boundlessly enthusiastic runners who I chat to on twitter so it was great to meet him in person.
5. Adventurous Running – Jay Worthy
Before attending the show Jay was probably the person I knew least about and for that reason I’d say he had the most impact. Jay Worthy is the host of a podcast called 28 Summers. Now, I like the idea of podcasts but I wouldn’t say I’ve embraced them yet. However, I’m now hooked on this fantastic resource of adventure, human endeavor and positivity. I don’t run with headphones but I’ve started to use then when I walk, so, these episodes will play an increasing part in my future motivation.
After an adventurous childhood, Jay described his journey on working his way up the corporate ladder to becoming a CEO with a high profile Chicago fitness equipment company, but, to achieve this he’d put his own wellbeing on hold and as he put it his adventurous side had gone into hibernation. The phrase all work and no play meant even with all the financial trappings, he wasn’t happy.
This is when the 28 Summers analogy turned his life around. Jay recalled listening to a motivational speaker who stated than the average American male lived until 78 and that speaker was 50 when he’d contemplated this, consequently this meant there were potentially 28 years left to fulfill any dreams he was harboring.
Naturally more can be achieved in the Summer, especially with your children, hence the name of the podcast. Jay took this onboard and now try’s to really “live” his life. After all, working for a future that you might not want is quite a revaluation. This concept of clocking up experiences and memories rather than counting down your remaining years puts a completely different spin on your outlook, no matter what your age, but more so if you are older.
To compound this he talked about how while trying to reclaim his mornings with exercise his life changed for the worst with no longer holding the position he’d worked for. Depression soon took over and he needed to try and find a way out. Jay talked about the perspective of looking down from a tall building or the top of a hill, the fast paced life at ground level can be viewed differently with an elevated view.
Focusing on health, family and asking himself “what makes my heart sing” has taken him full circle back to his childhood by searching out adventures endeavors. I also like the fact that as well as challenging his own thoughts he also challenges his children to think outside their comfort zones. I’m 60 at the end of May and this really struck me that at a time when people are considering pensions, savings and grey hair why not turn those negatives into positives. Trail running has already started me on this journey, I just needed this added focus to channel making the most of it.
I especially like the comment “No zero days” i.e. no matter how small the thought or action we can make a positive impact on our lives each day and if that sounds too much then “win your week” i.e. have more days in it with these stepping stones towards your goals, than not. These aspirations may sound quite grand initially and how could we achieve them on our own but if there’s one thing being part of the running community teaches you it’s that there’s so many like minded people who are looking for the same kind of adventure. Jay’s comment “find your tribe” summed this up in three words 🙂
Adventure might not solve all your circumstances, or the prospect of getting older, but the buzz of the outdoors with its vitamin D sunshine can only help. You don’t have to row the Atlantic, start small and build up. Jay mentioned his favorite T.S. Eliot quote, “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are”. I love this, until you start to find your limits you’ll never know what they are and by this it could also mean the limits of your enjoyment as well as physical capability.
As Bruce Springsteen famously once said “You can’t start a fire without a spark” and I believe listening to Jay has been the spark I needed to build on what I’ve started with trail running.
If you get the chance to attend future Running Shows there’s something for everyone.
Thanks for reading
As with all great sequels you wonder whether they’ll match up to the original. My first experience of the Woolacombe Dunes parkrun (WDp from now on) was September 2021, so, seven months later here I was eagerly awaiting my second experience of this breath taking course.
Breath taking in terms of the location and views, breath taking in terms of the sapping sandy beach and sand dunes !! Once parked I strolled along the Marine Drive headland looking down at the never ending waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean currents. Yes the weather was overcast but the setting was undeniably stunning.
Woolacombe is a glorious, award winning beach, however, it is also quite exposed, so the flapping National Trust flag was definitely a indication of the onshore breeze . Would the wind be in our favor, of course not, ha ha !! I’d anticipated a challenging 5K and the elements, as well as the course, were living up to the billing.
As I approached a cluster of volunteers they were discussing last weeks large Easter Bank Holiday turnout, I myself, was on a family visit so I could also class my attendance as parkrun tourism. Once I’d chatted and thanked the guys they mentioned there were two runners from my local area and sure enough I bumped into a couple, one with a Stubbington Green top and one a Hedge End runners top, small world.
While warming up along the first section of the course I was reminded of a question from twitter that I’d been asked, “with this being badged as a beach run, would a barefoot runner manage”. Well the headland road is made of pretty rough tarmac and there’s a number of loose stones so unless you have leather feet then perhaps not.
On listening to the course briefing I spotted Simon Oliver who was the organizer of the AONB North Devon marathon when I ran it in 2013. I introduced myself and as we chatted I glanced down at the time 8.55, all ready for the “off” and then I mouthed under my breath, “shit, barcode !!” So, I legged it in a very unprofessional way back to the car, rescued my parkrun barcode from the glove compartment and returned slightly red faced but luckily just in time for our final instructions and the 9am start.
The first significant change of direction at WDp is a sharp diagonal right hand turn that drops quite quickly down into the sand dunes. Inevitably, our well spread out initial numbers, would need to channel onto this path which would fit three abreast, with a push. The excitement and impending need for positioning got the better of me and I started of far too quickly !!
We’ve all done it but by now you’d think experience would play a part in a more measured strategy, nope, I over cooked it. You live and learn ha ha !! . As I caught my breath the solid path then gave way to a left hand turn with undulating sand as we worked our way down towards the beach. It’s worth noting there’s quite a steep final ten meters or so of shifting loose sand that brings you onto the more compact beach sand.
As this photo suggests the field was already well strung out after the first mile and while this would have been impressive on any day the fact that the wind was most definitely against us meant the guys ahead really were performing well. I came into this run with limited expectations so I wasn’t going to fret about the distance between me and the leaders, I figured I had the advantage of more time to enjoy it !!
We’d be advised that there might been horse riders on the beach, and to take care, but I didn’t spot any, only the white crests of the the waves which as I child I remember us calling sea horses.
Following Issac Newtons laws of gravity I figured that whenever you go downhill inevitably you’ll need to go back up again and there, looming in the distance, was the famous dune of doom. In a weird way I was a little disappointed there wasn’t someone capturing our tortured faces on film, a bit like those flattering theme park rides photos you get just before your stomach rises towards your throat.
I commented to the chap next to me how the sand dune felt like a sadistic game show, what was it ? Takeshis Castle ? The lung bursting and calf screaming was, however, only momentarily painful as we made our way across the dunes, parallel with the beach and back towards that steep downhill path which again thanks to Issac was now our final uphill slog.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I love pushing myself and questioning my ability, by definition a challenge accepted is a challenge to embrace. I reverted to “walking with purpose” which can be quite effective. After thanking the marshal at the top of the hill, honest, I did thanks him, it was the final rough tarmac leg before accepting and handing in my token.
My final photo is of the Porthole cafe that has seating inside and out as well as toilets on the right hand side of the building which means parkrunners can use “all” of the facilities. A large queue formed quite quickly for the refreshments which is always a good indication.
So, in summary, I thoroughly enjoyed my second experience of the North Devon coastline “rollercoaster” also know as Woolacombe Dunes parkrun. If you are in the area it’s a bucket list box ticked. Thankyou to everyone that made the run possible. I will no doubt return for my hattrick of parkruns here at these three and a bit miles of sandy smiles.
Thanks for reading ….. Roger