Woolacombe Dunes parkrun (The Atlantic “sea”quel)

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

Follow your own personal compass in 2022

As trail runners we are familiar with navigating our way through the countryside but sometimes it’s also worth considering which direction do we want to be going in. Where are you now and where do you want to be ?

Life sometimes throws us off track and just like being out on the trails a wrong turn isn’t always your fault, it can just be a chain of events. Getting back on track suggests something negative has happened but it’s important to turn this into a positive by reassessing your personal compass.

Whether you’ve had niggling injuries (like me), a loss of motivation or your circumstances have got on top of you it’s easy to become discouraged. These frustrations can be channeled, you can get back on an even keel. I’ve tried to consider what works for me, what makes me happy, what’s good for me and the answer is consistent running.

What do you learn from getting lost ? I’m not myself when my running isn’t going well, I’m sure we can all relate to this. However, rather than dwelling on it, the best course of action is to plan ahead. I recently read “if you aim at nothing, you hit nothing” and that spurred me on to consider what could I do to stop the downward spiral of annoyance due to silly injuries.

I came across the concept of “getting back to your center” hence the compass analogy. Running is my center, it’s who I am, it’s my mindfulness, wellbeing, fitness, health (mentally and physically), it’s my friends, it’s fresh air and without it a small part of me becomes lost.

Once you are aware you’ve become unhappy then you can accept it and move on. There probably isn’t a quick fix, maybe you need to press the reset button. When you aren’t running you feel like you are missing out, you are falling behind, your senses aren’t being stimulated, you are “off center”. I’ve had four visits to the physio in recent months to sort out two minor issues, I didn’t want sympathy, I just wanted to get going again !!

Paying attention to an causes means stripping everything back to basics. Correcting any issues now, will hopefully be the springboard for going forwards. I’ve accepted that I’m getting older and I need to develop and maintain better habits.

Everyone’s personal compass is specific to them, for me, I’ve come to the conclusion I need to be more flexible, warm up for longer and take any opportunity to stretch and limber up, whether it’s waiting for the kettle to boil or taking five minutes away from my computer, it’s surprising how rotating your neck, making circular movements with your arms outstretched or simple knee lifts can loosen you up. What might you change in 2022 ?

Another aspect of long distance running that I hadn’t considered is walking. This might sound obvious initially but a short lunch time walk or an early evening walk with the family means you are being active, almost without realising it. I’ve then taken it a step further by wearing kit and setting myself the target of walking four miles in under an hour (4 mph). Your heart rate is raised and your muscles are being exercised, just with less impact.

I know weights related strength and conditioning would help but I have to be realistic, gym’s aren’t my thing, getting outdoors is what does it for me. I’m finding my patio warm up / flexibility before walks or running is becoming enjoyable rather than a chore, because I know making these changes will benefit my run. This weeks 15 miles of walking and running has been the best for a few months !!

The final piece in this jigsaw was when I watched Allie Baileys video on Instagram were she talked about her twenty-twenty-you approach for 2022. It initially revolves around intensions and affirmations rather than New Years Resolutions which tend to be black and white i.e. “Dry January” or “I will loose 6 pounds”, her idea of intentions fits in perfectly with my “finding your center or direction” because these are more positive and achievable, rather than setting yourself up for failure with a numeric target i.e. weight, units of alcohol or mileage.

I intend to correct 2021’s stop / start year by walking, exercising and generally trying to head in the right direction on a number of levels to support my running. Captain Jack Sparrow’s compass didn’t appear to show the correct North, South, East or West, it showed him the horizon and the direction he needed to reach his goals.

Where will your inner compass take you in 2022 ?

I’m no pirate but I do intend to be a “Jolly Roger” in 2022.

Armed with their compass and sense of direction, why are trail runners good at navigation …. they just “Arrr”, Happy New Year

Thanks for reading.

Rog

Spring 2021 : A time for optimism

Saturday March the 20th officially marks the beginning of Spring 2021. I chose to get out on the Friday so as to experience our local countryside on a slightly quieter day and to enjoy the forecast sunshine. I’m always heartened with the evenings gradually getting lighter but I feel the whole country is waiting to embrace Spring. This year, more than any other year, there’s hope, anticipation and optimism in the air.

Setting off from Wickham along the Meon Valley trail (MVT) I had an hour and a half to play with and my main goal was to soak up all of my surroundings. Apart from the birdsong I first noticed the sound of the River Meon. This clear and fast flowing chalk bed river has worked its way from a spring in the Meon Valley and will eventually flow out into the Solent at Hill Head.

For centuries Wickham has been a fording point to cross the river and the small waterfalls near the bridge had bubbling water with the force of the current pushing it downstream. In many ways the last year can be compared with the river, our progress has been halted, diverted, been put back on track and then diverted again. Hopefully with the covid vaccine being rolled out we can now flow in the right direction !!

Once heading out along the MVT the conditions underfoot were pretty good with only occasional mud. The tree line route is still quite bear as it’s too early in the season but the sense of more to come was definitely in the air. I was in no rush and quite open to trying a few new twists and turns in the woods ahead. All outdoor exercise starts with excited anticipation but even more so after the last year that we’ve all endured.

The MVT was previously a railway line and the arch of the bridge in my first photo made me stop and take a snap. The arch almost acted like a picture frame for the view ahead. At this point I was near the Forestry England maintained Upperford Copse which then leads onto West Walk and 100 Acres, it was time to explore !!

The densely packed trees seemed curiously spaced out with so few leaves but with a variety of species planted in the area I was soon running through a lush green canopy over the trails. This might sound silly be being out on a Friday almost seemed to fit in with Spring officially starting on the Saturday. The prospect of what lays ahead for your weekend being a similar thought for the rest of Spring, exciting times.

Entering the West Walk car park there were quite a few cars with people taking lockdown exercise. If the last year can give one legacy I do hope it means people carry on enjoying the fresh air and sights of the countryside. Even with a minimal car parking charge the benefits of getting outdoors will hopefully have been embedded in the nations minds and legs.

I chose to bypass the family friendly compacted paths and head out into the forest for some muddy adventure. The blue skies and towering trees give off such an energy which we sorely need to charge our weary lockdown batteries. Knowing the next six months will bring better weather for Mother Nature to weave her magic really adds a spring to your stride.

The noise of branches rustling to my right makes me wonder if I’d be lucky enough to see a deer but instead it was two squirrels chasing each other from branch to branch. I really do wonder what the animals have made of fewer human beings in their natural habitat ? Fewer people will have meant less car pollution, litter and disturbance. After all nature has carried on over the last fours seasons even if we’ve been on hold.

I do enjoy a muddy hill as the elevation makes you work for your miles. Once rounding the trail towards the mobile caf√© and toilets it was time to turn and head back. I do think it’s important to take what you have seen, heard and smelt on your travels and use it as motivation in your day to day life. The peace and beauty of these surroundings can remain in your thoughts for when life’s pressures mount up.

Heading out of the woods the sun has become stronger, the shadows were lengthening and you simply can’t help but simile. Spring is a time of new beginnings and goodness knows we could all do with a rosier future. If covid has done one thing it’s made me not take anything for granted.

I’m already thinking about March 29th and being able to go further afield for my green fix. The Hampshire countryside has so much to offer and even though I’ve been happy to settle for what’s on my doorstep for much of this year I’m truly excited that April’s bluebells aren’t too far away and then we’ll be treated to the explosion of colour that Spring delivers as well as the optimism we all crave and deserve.

Thanks for reading and remember the outdoors is waiting for you.

Self Esteem – Runnings hidden benefit

The physical benefits of exercise have long been known, some people choose to embrace them, others couldn’t think of anything worse, naturally it’s all down to personal choice but an additional benefit that might not readily come to mind is the self worth and positivity that can be gained from a pair of trainers and running, regardless of the pace or distance.

Speed isn’t a factor and all runners whether novices or experienced old hands will tell you that the physical benefits of running are only half the story, self esteem is probably the single biggest factor in my running these days. In short, the world looks a better place when I’m running.

As runners we probably take for granted the physical benefits of our hobby / passion. Cardiovascular fitness, maintaining or loosing weight, kick starting your metabolism, toned muscles, lower cholesterol, blood pressure reduction, falling asleep quicker and sleeping deeper, the list goes on and on !! In fact, I recently read a quote that said exercise can add years to your life and life to your years.

So with the physicality covered I wanted to write about why running is so important to me and maybe encourage others to try it for themselves. I stand that little bit taller when I talk about or go running.

A familiar comment that I hear is “do runners actually enjoy what they do because they always have a pained expression on their face” well I guess if it was easy then there wouldn’t be the same challenge but there’s definitely a second satisfaction to be had, long after you’ve showered and settled back into everyday life.

Having a sporty identity and been know as a runner implies to people that you are fit and healthy but one of my best kept secrets is that it positively influences the rest of the my day, week, month and year.

I’m not fast, I haven’t run a personal best for years but running gives me an inner feeling of self worth. In many ways I believe in myself, this doesn’t mean I’m overly confident it simply means I appreciate my achievements and if I hadn’t been running then I wouldn’t have set myself these goals and wouldn’t have enjoyed aspiring and ultimately reaching many of my target. Be proud of your running ūüėÄ

Having pride in your running isn’t being big headed because I can list numerous people that can run faster and further than I can but in many ways that’s the point, I am proud of what I do. Don’t compare yourself to others because what they are doing is out of your control. I do think that we can put too much pressure on ourselves, I must and I should have can be quite damaging instead I like to concentrate on what’s realistic.

Building on your previous training and races means you are learning from both your successes and mistakes. When I’m struggling I do like to draw on previous runs and say to myself, “come on Rog, you chose to do this, you’ve done it before you can do it again”.

The other great thing about self esteem is that it can have a cumulative effect and each positive run / experience builds on the last so that when you do have a bad day you have lots of good days to fall back on.

It’s probably inevitable that the one event which you consider as your best performance will give you your most self esteem. Race to the King was the one event that encapsulated everything that I’m trying to portray but running a double marathon across the South Downs Way implies the feeling is only achievable with an above average effort and this isn’t the case. Yes I completed 53 miles in twelve hours but the fact that I was on the move from 8am until 8pm isn’t necessarily the achievement it’s the fact that standing on the start line the previous seven months of training meant I believed I could run/walk eighteen miles further than I’d previously attempted.

I have other photos but I like this one because with my eyes closed it implies I was glad it was over when in actual fact it gave me the biggest buzz I’ve ever had, I was on top of the world, even if the winner had finished hours before I had I’d proved to myself that I could achieve my goal and that feeling never leaves you.

Standing on the train platform in Winchester once I’d finished, I had a massive smile on my face even though my legs ached but this inner sense of self worth and personal value is just as achievable after a run in the rain when staying indoors felt like a better bet or heading out on a chilly morning when staying in your warm bed would be most peoples choice.

I may have a preference for longer distance running but I firmly believe we all have more in us than we think and once you’ve experienced that then you realise you don’t need to be the best, just the best “you” that you can be and that’s more than enough.

The self esteem that’s gained from exercise means you believe in yourself and even though this might not solve all of your everyday problems it really does lift your spirits when you reflect on what you’ve achieved and on what you are planning to attempt because you approach your future goals with a “can do” mindset.

Exercise is known to help you process stress, anxiety and depression, the great outdoors is free to access and thankfully its benefits have been recognised even during lockdown. If you add self esteem then that’s a great place to look forwards from.

Running sets you free !!

Thanks for reading

What does the “i” in irunoffroad stand for ?

When I first contemplated writing a blog the two central themes that I had in mind were to try and express the joy that I feel when running through the countryside and how best to share those experiences with like minded people.

Yes the “i” relates to me in that it’s my words, photos and thoughts but at the same time I’m really keen that whoever is reading recognises the “i” as being themselves because they can identify with the locations and enjoyment that these trail running endeavors have to offer.

Running through nature makes me happy, it’s who I am, it’s a part of me and I know this applies to thousands of others. Sharing this common bond whether running with friends or chatting across social media means the “i” is an all inclusive term for everyone that laces up their trainers.

Naturally the “i” prefix also stands for the internet and social media. Creating twitter and Instagram accounts with the same name as my blog made sense and naturally they all feed off each other.

I’m proud to say that I have virtually the same amount of followers and following on both twitter and instagram because again this community based relationship is at the heart of what I want to achieve.

The most famous “i” prefix belonged to Apple , I believe Steve Jobs started out with an intention that the internet was to both inform and inspire, that’s a great place to start.

Running has remained my constant source of hope and normality through the various lockdowns. I write about a broad spectrum of running related topics that draw on my personal experiences. It’s good to share your thoughts if you think they can worthwhile.

Bloggers can be accused of being self centred but my blogs are aimed at everyday running topics that we all experience and benefit from.

Hopefully the “i” in irunoffroad doesn’t just come across as me writing, it also relates to ‚Äúyou‚ÄĚ the reader because “we” love to run off road.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Roger

Full Steam Ahead !! 14 miler

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After last weekends eighteen mile run I decided to drop back to fourteen this week and prepare myself for a twenty / twenty one miler next weekend.

With HMS Prince of Wales being in dock at the moment this was a perfect excuse to run down and take a photo, after all its not everyday you see an aircraft carrier !!

My mood has been buoyant after¬†the success of a¬†three hour stint last week and coupled with this I’m into my third week of eating better too. I’m convinced its having an effect¬†as I definitely feel that I have more energy.

I’m taking full advantage of the vegetarian options at work and alternating this with jacket potatoes and side salads. After recently watching the Game Changers Netflix film meat consumption and a plant based diet are topics I’m looking into both for my general health as well as supporting my running.

These small steps I’ve outlined, when combined with taking three pieces of fruit¬†to work as well, can only help !! When I saw a vegan sausage roll in Greggs while picking something up for my daughter I couldn’t resist buying one and I’m pleased to report it was quite tasty. I saw this week that Chris Froome is the latest high profile athlete to follow this route. I’ll keep you posted.

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Vegan

Todays run¬†featured a mile or so¬†of¬†muddy field running and then after that it was flat and tarmac. Now, flat and tarmac aren’t my preferred option but I¬†decided I couldn’t miss the aircraft carrier. My pace was good initially and I was pleased not to drop below ten minute mileing for all fourteen.

After all, ten minute miles will give you a 4.22 marathon and at this stage I’d take that. The early chill meant I ran with my egloves and as the sun began to appear it was one of those bright and cold mornings that keep you focused.

The six miles down to my viewing point were even paced and I saw a number of people driving through Gosport on route to the Gosport Half marathon which, as usual, was fully booked. Congratulations to everyone who ran it.

The return leg of my run meant heading for Stubbington and avoiding the fields because quite frankly I was moving well so I decided to work on maintaining my pace.

It’s gratifying when your pervious weeks efforts seem to be paying off and I kept¬†a steady pace.

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Strava trail running

As you look at my Strava photo you may wonder why I’ve added the phrase “Jolly Roger”¬†, well I was pleased with my run and as coincidence would have it I’d passed a pub near Priddy’s Hard with¬†just that name. Fait …. ha ha !!

ship2With five weeks to the Portsmouth Coastal marathon I’m pleased with my progress and¬†with the Naval aspect from today the phrase “Full Steam Ahead” seemed quite apt for my blog.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone that read my “Life Affirming” blog from last week. I had a lot of positive feedback which is both pleasing and hopefully may have inspired others to #getoutside and experience the joys of exercise in the fresh air ūüôā

Thanks for reading

Roger

 

Knott Kinetics : Run & Injury Prevention talk

kkGroupI recently attended a talk given by Knott Kinetics¬†of Gosport. The phrase “prevention is better than cure”¬†was¬†their topic.¬†The evenings venue and hosts were Knott Kinetics and more specifically Lawrence Knott, the managing director and owner, who was accompanied by two other guest speakers, Edyta Sikorska – Sports Therapy & Chas Staines – Exercise Rehabilitation, both of whom work with Lawrence.

The evening was a joint venture with Nick Carters 545 RunClub that’s a free Wednesday night organised run in and around Gosport. The choice¬†of a 5K or 3K run meaning all abilities are catered for, it’s free and it’s most definitely all inclusive. Sadly I couldn’t make the 5.45 start time but plenty did, as can be seen in the photo above, with Lawrence front and centre of the predominantly Gosport Road Runners !!

Naturally as a running blogger I’m an interest observer and clearly not qualified in this field but I’m going to try my best to pass on some of the great advice we listened to. I have attempted to fill the odd gap here and there as I simply couldn’t remember all of the advice we heard. If I’ve got anything wrong, bear with me !!

As a quick background Knott Kinetics treat beginners through to elite athletics with sports therapy, massage, exercise rehabilitation, strength and conditioning, physiotherapy, osteopathy and acupuncture. Complementing this they offer yoga and palates too.

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The main reasons I was draw to come along this evening was¬†after reading on their website that they wanted to promote pro active healthcare i.e.¬†“you” becoming a better version of you and¬†secondly the phrase, I’m sure you will agree that we can all do more to help ourselves. This kind of self help encouragement strikes me as very forward thinking.

Now, ask any runner what their biggest fear / annoyance / frustration is and invariably they will say, being injured !! But, we can minimise the risks by taking “ownership” of our actions, after all it’s better to prevent an injury than have to recover from one. Being injured affects quite a wide circle of our friends and family because they have to put up with us ….. ha ha !!!

I made sure I was right at the front of their exercise studio to get the best possible seat as the presentations started.

KKme

Pictured above is Edyta talking to us about the Achilles tendon, how it worked and what could be done to strengthen it.¬†The¬†talk combined some serious and some amusing demonstrations by her fellow contributor Chas, as she used him to illustrate her talk. Naturally this topic was quite specific were as Lawrence and Chas had wider ranging subjects¬†which I’ve decided to concentrate on. Thank you Edyta I now know considerably more about my Achilles and¬†its function.

Lawrence was up next and he underlined the nature of what the business was trying to achieve with some of the principals that I’ve already mentioned.¬†At this point I have to say the combination of¬†a welcoming reception,¬†a good sized studio, weights, cardio machines and ¬†naturally the treatment rooms all make for a very professional combination.

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Lawrence concentrated on the core principle of running form and what can be done around optimising the best foot position. Naturally as runners we all bring different attributes, some helpful, others not son much but everything is correctable.

Working from the initial thought that each running stride is sending a shock wave of four times your body weight up your frame then this will inevitably have implications for your ankles, tendons, muscles, knees, hips, back and even neck !!

The talk lead us through having the correct footwear for our running as well as the possibility of using orthotics to correct flat feet. Your feet will both propel you forward as well as take the impact of every running stride. Naturally shoe choices are a huge factor in staying injury free.

Do you pronate, if so you’ll need shoes that have flexible soles and padding for the areas of impact.¬†Are you an over pronator ? you’ll need support for your arches or maybe you’re a supinator then you’ll need cushioning on the rigid outer edge of your foot. Finally, if you are a terminator you probably wont even wear shoes but you’ll make return trips to the clinic …. “I’ll be back” !!

We discussed that balance and strength are key to good form and this was a pre runner to what Chas would talk about later.

Lawrence also included the audience by challenging us to stand on one leg and test our stability. I liked the humorous side of his delivery as he overemphasised bad habits and the effects of poor form.

Listening to¬†the mechanics of running certainly made me consider my posture and it’s easy to see¬†how as we increase mileage then overuse of¬†any incorrect element will¬†eventually lead to injuries. Stand tall, chest open and keep your upper body and pelvis stable.

Warm up, have stability, strength and balance, combine this with the correct running posture and then economy and efficiency will follow on, leading to faster times and longer periods of uninterrupted running.

Finally I think its fair to say that we all run forwards !! This naturally means that we work some muscles more than others and this can lead to muscle imbalance and an increased risk of injury. This imbalance was were Lawrence lead onto Chas as the final speaker.

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Chas gave a compelling talk as to the necessity of building a good foundation of strength and conditioning as the cornerstone to success. One of his opening comments was that given a choice would we run for half an hour or use strengthening exercises ? He knew we’d all be running but he then tried to convince us otherwise.

How many of us have lost our running form in the later stages of a race because we are tired. Strengthening your core and conditioning can help both improve and maintain your running form, which in turn, makes you more efficient. Increasing your strength increases your endurance and will prevent injuries.

Chas mentioned that both people new to running as well as seasoned runners should view strength training as part of your total running package and if you don’t then you could be missing out on various gains that improve your technique and lower the risk of injury.

Strength training or resistance can be achieved with free weights, rubber bands, general gym machines and bodyweight exercise. The good stress that this puts our body under forces it to adapt and boost its ability to take on extra loads.

Stronger legs, arms and shoulders will all contribute to a stronger core and as mentioned earlier an imbalance of the muscles can also be worked on. Chas takes a Monday evening class at 6.30pm and is also available to be booked for individual assessments.

Strength training our muscles and bones will naturally help fight off stress fractures which are a common overuse injury. The training doesn’t all need to be in the gym and it doesn’t need to take up hours. Naturally advice from¬†an expert like Chas is recommended as to which exercises suit you the best.

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Chas was keen to underline that every top athlete uses strength training¬†so if it helps them then there’s every chance it can help us. That concluded the talks and¬†we finished with “any questions” which actually went on¬†for nearly ten minutes and was a testament to all the speakers being eager to help.

The audience was mainly Gosport Road Runners but I do hope my blog will be of interest to all the runners in our local area as well as further afield.

Huge thanks to Lawrence and Nick for organising this run/talk night as well as Edyta and Chas for their thought provoking talks.

I was impressed with future possible talks that Knott Kinetics are looking to host such as mental wellbeing, nutrition and multisport training so keep your eyes peeled !!

Thanks for reading

Roger

 

Langstone Harbour running

Image-13The coastal path that follows Langstone Harbour makes up a large proportion of the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside marathon. This event is in its tenth year now and has built up quite a cult status what with the race being the weekend before Christmas.

My training had to be put on hold last week due to a back twinge so the aim of todays run was to get back to double figures.

This blog isn’t so much about the ten miles of running but more about my observations of the area with its tidal mudflats and seabirds.

Over the recent years I’ve looked at my running from a different¬†viewpoint. Yes, I run¬†to the best of my ability but, no I¬†don’t beat myself up over my pace.

Running gives me¬†a sense of wellbeing and mindfulness purely due to the locations that I pass through and the sights that I take in.¬†Photography also allows me to express the enjoyment that I¬†experience while I’m¬†out running. Stopping for a moment¬†to¬†take a photo means that I can both look back on my adventures as well as share them with others.

Image-14The two photos that I’ve used so far really capture just why¬†I chose to enter the Believe and Achieve marathon. Naturally the event has a Christmas buzz with many¬†people wearing fancy dress and¬†with rum and mince pies on offer over the previous years these are also reasons for me to return having run the marathon and ultra options before.

The weather conditions this morning were perfect with no wind¬†and the water was as¬†flat as a mill pond. Race day may well be¬†a different matter !! It will definitely be colder in December but extra layers and gloves can remedy that. I love running on the “South Downs” but it’s also good to visit the coast on occasions.

Running next to the water¬†offers a completely different¬†experience to the hilly trails inland.¬†There’s something relaxing and hypnotic about running next to the sea.

My route took me along trails close to the seawall and with the mud flats to your right, the yachts moored out in the deeper channels and¬†wading birds¬†to watch¬†you¬†get¬†a sense that you’re travelling through daily coastal life.

The trail is fairly narrow with the exception of a tarmac section near Farlington marshes but the majority of the time there’s the smell of seaweed, occasional shingle¬†and the lapping of the water onto green¬†algae covered¬†rocks.

Virtually the only people I saw were fishermen who were¬†out early morning bait digging and it struck me that this was probably something they’d been doing for years. I do like to run through areas with some natural history and the old Hayling railway bridge at half way is a great example of this.

Image-15The clear water was a perfect mirror to the yachts masts and the individual supports of the long gone railway bridge were a reminder of times gone by. The low tide certainly brought in various birds that feast on the rich offerings. Their calls and chirping was a constant feature of my run.

Some sections of the coastal path are rough underfoot so it’s important¬†not to get too distracted with¬†your¬†sight seeing but overall the conditions¬†underfoot were good.

I’m thoroughly looking forward to a longer run along the coast path next week and as an added bonus I aim run earlier in an attempt to catch the sunrise.

 

Commit to get fit : 10 miles

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My 2019 running has been quite hit and miss due to a number of¬†factors which I won’t bore you with. Todays ten miles were fantastic !! I really connected with my running, my surroundings and my¬†desire to commit. So, after a number of false starts I feel it’s time to focus on the remainder of the year.

I currently only have one race booked and that’s the Portsmouth Coastal marathon¬†which is¬†the weekend before Christmas. I may well enter some other races but the PCM is currently my goal.

Today was a game changer !! After a much better weeks sleep I woke at 7am, half an hour before the alarm and I said to myself, “lets make the most of it” and get up¬†!!

Driving out to Meonstoke only takes about twenty minutes but I used this time to ask myself what did I want to achieve. My conclusion was that I needed ten miles with as few distractions as possible and quite simply to soak up the sights and sounds of a relatively early countryside run.

I decided to run the three miles to West Meon village, follow the High Street up and down and then return to Exton for Beacon Hill. The secondary aim of today was to run past where I dropped out of Race to the King. My feelings were predominantly of frustration the last time I was there and I wanted to replace this with positivity.

Pace wasn’t a factor for today, I decided a sense of reconnecting was my main goal. As I joined the Meon Valley trail I immediately felt relaxed, almost as if I was¬†leaving¬†the old 2019 behind me and embracing the remainder of the year.

I didn’t feel I was running away from the stresses of my life, more that I was heading towards a better way of dealing with them.¬†Being¬†in a good place¬†really is the best way¬†to deal with¬†whatever life challenges you with. Running hasn’t¬†100% been my happy place this¬†year but I was determined to change this today.

I decided not to look at my gps stats but just to accept whatever came my way and take a photo if I thought it was a good reference point. My first photo was at about two miles in.

“Sheep”

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It always strikes me that the animals I see on my travels look happy. It’s a bright sunny day and they are grazing outdoors.¬†A simple existence and yet¬†that’s all I was aspiring to on my run, just to co exist with my surroundings.

As I reached the end of the trail (it’s an old railway line) the remnants of¬†West Meon station’s platform can be seen and I passed through a narrow footpath that takes you to the High Street. This path can’t be more than four feet wide and the walls look like the original stonework from the railway which opened around 1903.

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I do enjoy running through history because I like to try and imagine what it would have looked like. My trip up and down the High Street took in the stores, the old post office, a butchers and a pub.

Returning towards Meonstoke I had¬†Exton in my thoughts. I’d clocked up¬†about five miles and was in a good steady rhythm. With few distractions¬†the countryside allows you to listen to your body. This might sound a little self indulgent but I find it¬†motivates me.

Even breathing means I’m pacing my effort, the¬†sound of my footsteps becomes a beat to tune into and you really are living every second because¬†its what you are concentrating on. The simple process of¬†following one stride after another.

Mindfulness and Wellbeing are¬†important to me¬†and I feel I’ve drifted away from them in recent months. Today I felt connected with what I wanted to achieve.

Heading through Exton and up Beacon Hill¬†I wasn’t even really thinking about when I dropped out of Race to The King in June.¬†I was too busy taking in what was around me. The stream that flows through the village, the flint walls, the birds song and the upcoming hill !!

I was pleased to keep a steady pace to the trig point at the top of Beacon Hill which is were my first blog photo was taken. The South Downs Way was made for blue skies and sunshine !! I can definitely say that the effort it took to reach the top of the hill was well rewarded.

The downhill return meant I could speed up and let myself go !! After a number of measured miles due to fitness restraints it’s good to just “run free” downhill.

So, what did I set out to achieve ?

A ten mile run (Tick), inspiration (Tick), mindfulness and wellbeing (Tick) but most of all the sense that I’d¬†thoroughly enjoyed and hour and three quarters of “me time”.¬†Running makes me happy and¬†it has a positive effect on the rest of my life.

I’m ready to¬†commit to¬†get fit with more training and deal better with¬†what every the rest of 2019 has in store. I promise future posts will be less about me and more about running …. ha ha !!

Thanks for reading

Roger

Hydration for Runners : Dr Dan

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From right to left this photo shows Dr Dan, myself and Neil Jarrett along with a number of Gosport Road runners. The reason/excuse for us meeting in a pub was a talk by Dr Dan on hydration, hosted by Alton Sports, the 5.45 running club and the Four Ale Tap Room.

The 5.45 club is a Gosport running community initiative set up by Nick Carter. All are welcome to the Wednesday “quarter to six” run, whether you’re a club runner or not its an all inclusive invite. Additional to these runs are occasional visits to drinking establishments and talks that are arranged.

Gosport Road Runners (GRR) naturally form the majority of the group but I’ve always felt welcome as a visiting Fareham Crusader runner. Doctor Daniel Roiz De Sa is the Senior Medical Officer at the Institute of Naval Medicine in Gosport as well as a GRR runner. Hayley Sparshott (another GRR runner I know) was also there.

Unfortunately travel commitments ( I caught the bus) meant I couldn’t arrive early enough for the run but a good number of runners had set off from the Alton Sports shop (just up the road). So, a run, talk, real ales/cider and sandwiches …. “yes”, that’s my kind of night ūüôā !!

Our venue for the evening was the Four Ale Tap Room which had numerous beverages on offer considering its relatively small size. The atmosphere is friendly and the chap in charge was as knowledgeable and passionate about his ale as we are about our running. I had two pints of berry cider¬†which went down very well ūüôā

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Now that I’ve set the scene I’ll try to summarise some of the points Dan made. Naturally Dr Dan is an expert in his field and has years of analysis to call on, I’m simply going on what I remember so please¬†bear this in mind¬†while reading !!

Summer running is a curious and ever changing sport. One week the temperatures can sore into the thirties and then another week the humidity can be just as sapping even if the temperatures are ten degrees less.

So, what’s the best way of coping ?? This depends on your age, height, sex, weight and conditions so bear this in mind too and just remember even the best athletes don’t always get it right … we’ll never forget Jonny Brownlee staggering towards the finish line in Mexico¬†due to¬†his heat exhaustion.

Running¬†when the¬†air temperature his hot will increase your core body temperature. The body sends more blood to circulate through your skin, this leaves less blood for your muscles which then increases your heart rate. If humidity is added to this, then sweat doesn’t easily evaporate and you’ll need to take action against dehydrating.

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This photo from Race to the King shows the kind of hot Summers day that’s beautiful to look at but needs quite a lot of planning and thought¬†hydration wise.

Water not only makes up 60% of body weight in men and 50-55% in women but also regulates temperature. Water is lost in urine and sweat, so, to avoid dehydration you need to replace it regularly with both fluid and food. Water, sports drinks, soft drinks, tea and coffee are your obvious starting points and as a measure six to eight glasses of fluid are needed each day.

What I hadn’t considered was that you take in water from the food you eat. Some 20% of your total daily water intake comes from food with¬†fruit and vegetables being 80% water,¬†so eating “real food” on longer runs becomes important¬†as well as on a daily basis.

Becoming dehydrated usually includes a dry mouth, the start of a headache and worsening concentration. One other clear sign is when the colour of your urine becomes darker !!

So, keep well hydrated in the¬†build up to your race, stop drinking alcohol 48 hours before and don’t forget to have a drink as soon as you wake up on race day as well as an hour beforehand. Sipping on a regular basis while running is much more effective than drinking a large amount in one go and you are far less likely to need to go to the toilet !!

At this point I’d also like to mention reducing your single use plastic when drinking. I now take my cup and soft flasks whenever I run. I carry two 500ml flasks and refill them. Help save the planet too !!

 

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Another factor to consider is where will you source your fluids from ? Races have feed stations but while out training include garages and shops for your top ups.

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I’ve considered my fluids : Water – No calories, Low Fat Milk – nutrients & protein, Hot drinks – drink to suit and¬†Sports drinks – for activity beyond an hour, I¬†personally use SIS hydro tablets that you dissolve in 500ml¬†of water and these include electrolyte.

Other¬†practicalities that were also discussed were, avoid the mid day sun if possible, always wear suntan lotion, it’s personal choice but a visor or a cap can help and finally wear loose fitting wicked material¬†shorts and top¬†to prevent heat building up under your clothes.

Dan mentioned a number of athletes and personalities he’s help and to bring his experiences right up to date he told us he’d be working with celebrity SAS winner Wayne Bridge as he¬†prepares for the 2020 Marathon Des Sables. Wayne will be able to acclimatise in Dan’s heat chambers and be monitored but we can also acclimatise to the heat by running progressively longer each time during the build up to our chosen race.

The last time I listen to Dan was after his own personal 2017 MDS race and a talk that he gave on it. Dan raised sponsorship for Walking With the Wounded in 2017, Wayne will be in 2020 and I did for my Race to the King 2017 focus event so in a small way we have something in common.

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So, it’s a huge thank you to Dan for the talk and the various¬†people that¬†helped to make it happen. Typically August seems to have settled into a cloudy 19 degrees but that’s still no excuse not to stay hydrated for your best efforts when running !!

Thanks for reading …. Roger