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Protein News

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Protein shakes are a useful supplement to add to a healthy diet for runners. It’s important to refuel correctly after running to help muscles repair and restore glycogen levels with the addition of carbohydrates in a shake. It’s particularly important if you don’t have time to prepare a meal. Shakes are a convenient way of getting optimal nourishment during a crucial post-workout window.

The quality of protein shakes has improved vastly over the years. Some brands are more conscious of cutting out sugars and unnecessary additives but unfortunately there are still many that have artificial sweeteners in an attempt to keep the macronutrients in balance while making them more palatable.

There has also been a surge of online shops undercutting the larger brands with much cheaper options and in that, the quality of the protein itself has been called into question.

There is increasing evidence to support the claims that artificial sweeteners can cause neurological damage, and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is being pushed to test products that have been around for the last 20 years or so, particularly ‘diet’ products which notoriously cut out fat and replace with not only artificial sweeteners but a concoction of flavour enhancers to make their products more appealing.

Seek out simple foods in their natural state

I’ve always promoted simple food in its natural state and support the recent rise of plant-based protein powders – minimally processed, natural products, with the majority of brands not adding anything artificial.

Brown rice protein powder is my favourite of the plant-based proteins. It’s hypoallergenic and has a 98% correlation to mother’s milk. Others include pea protein and hemp protein.

Super Proteins

Super proteins are an exciting new fusion of plant based protein powders and superfood powders. Superfoods are blended with protein powder to boost their nutritional offering and include items such as raw cacao and maca powder.

Raw cacao is widely recognised for the naturally occurring chemicals it contains which stimulate the happy centres in our brain. No other food in the world is known to contain as many mood- improving substances as cacao.

Maca, a Peruvian superfood is considered an ‘adaptogen’ as it works wonders for improving energy levels and helping us cope with the stressful demands of modern life. It has a positive effect on our hormonal system, helping to correct hormone imbalances in the body. Maca is also known as ‘nature’s viagra’ as it is best known for its aphrodisiac qualities. It is popular with athletes as it helps improve endurance and performance.

When super proteins are blended, the ingredients are cold-pressed and kept raw which retains essential organic compounds and they contain no refined sugars, artificial ingredients or allergens.

The race to refuel

Protein shakes are best consumed as soon as you have finished running. The sooner you can refuel, the sooner your body can be assisted in essential repair and recovery. Within 15 minutes would be ideal but anything up to one hour is a prime window of opportunity.

Plant-based protein powders are also useful at any time of day to boost overall protein intake and are particularly beneficial for vegans and vegetarians. You can make a breakfast smoothie more sustaining if super proteins are added. For example, a shake based on banana, almond milk and oats would be predominantly carbohydrate. With the addition of brown rice protein powder and chia seeds which contain essential fat, the meal becomes more balanced and the effect on blood sugar is more stable.

Super Protein Picks

Recover right with these superfood-enhanced products

– Blissful brown rice and raw cacao super protein 
Raw cacao contains iron and magnesium normally lost in the processing of chocolate and a huge amount of antioxidants which mop up cellular damage in the body.
thatprotein.com

– I heart protein and chia seed super protein
One 25g serving contains a third of our RDA of heart-healthy omega 3 and a whole host of essential minerals and fibre to improve digestion. thatprotein.com

– Sunwarrior warrior blend organic protein
Contains pea protein, hemp protein, goji berries and whole ground coconut evolutionorganics.co.uk

– Project organic vegan protein
Uses a 50/50 blend of rice and pea protein and makes a perfect base for adding one of my favourite superfoods, camu camu powder. Camu camu is a red/purple cherry-like fruit that grows in the Amazonian rainforest and has an exceptionally high vitamin C content. theproperfoodproject.co.uk

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Olympic Lifting for Runners

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I encourage all of my clients who are training for performance in any sport to use Olympic lifting movements because of their potential for power development: explosive runners will be able to run faster race times. This is why it’s kept in all of my runner’s programmes – from sprint to distance athletes.

The traditional lifts – snatch and clean and jerk – are very skilled-based, so if I don’t have time to coach the full lifts I will use variations to get the athlete more powerful in a short training block.

Complete the exercises as a circuit, with 10 seconds rest between each move. Complete three to four sets of the circuit, increasing the weight slightly with each set, and rest two to three minutes between sets.

1 SNATCH PULL

2-5 reps at around 80-90% of one-rep max (1RM)

The snatch pull is an important exercise for the extension of the full snatch for strength and power. Start with a snatch starting position; hands gripped wide on the bar, back should be neutral and tight with the head looking up. Keep shoulders over the bar, with the bar staying close to the body as you accelerate it aggressively vertically.

2 CLEAN PULL

2-5 reps at around 80-90% of 1RM

The clean pull is a similar set up to the snatch pull, however the hands are gripped closer together on the barbell. For a clean grip I want a thumb’s width away from the smooth part of the barbell. You should be lifting heavier loads for the clean pull than the snatch pulls, make sure you move fast.

3 SNATCH DEADLIFT

4sets x5 reps

The snatch deadlift is used to develop strength in the pull of the snatch. Using a heavier load than with the snatch pulls, the starting position should be a neutral spine with the head up and legs pushed hard against the floor. Weight should be shifted towards the heels and shoulders should be over the bar. Stand up with the bar, making sure the back stays tight.

4 FRONT SQUAT OLYMPIC STYLE

4 sets x 5 reps

The front squat is a strength building exercise. Not only will this build leg strength but it will also improve trunk (core) strength and improve mobility at the ankle and hips. The barbell should be placed in the clean rack position – not a bodybuilding style with hands crossed over. Feet should be around hip/shoulder-width apart with toes turned slightly outwards.

Begin the descent with a tight core and upright posture while trying to maintain good alignment of the ankle, knee and hip. Go as low as you can with a neutral spine and stand up as fast as possible.


Joe Peat runs training camps on various weekends in the City of London. For more information, head to joepeat.com and follow Joe on Instagram: @joepeat1

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Skyscraper Racing

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Photos: ©Sporting Republic

More than 600 runners from 28 countries took part on June 8th in the fourth stage of the Vertical World Circuit in Manila at the Kerry Sports Manila Vertical Run. The reigning VWC world champion, Piotr Lobodzinski pulled off a hat trick, winning the event for the third time running.

While the challenge in racing up the 59 floors and 1,353 steps to the summit of the Shangri-la at the Fort tower remained the same as the past two years, there was a slight course change. Poland’s Lobodzinski closed in 6’56”, just over the previous records.

“I’m really happy with my race today,” said Lobodzinski. “Third win in a row! It was maybe a bit slower because of changes to the staircase and flat parts. I’m still below seven minutes so I’m happy with this. I’d like to come back next year to improve my time. My next race will be Beijing so see you there!”

Ryoji Watanabe from Japan clinched an excellent 7’09” and, closing the men’s podium, was Wai Ching Soh from Malaysia in 7’23”.

John Rice, General Manager of Shangri-la at the Fort, was pleased with the outcome. “Another great year, our third year with the race. This year we had EastWest Bank as our title sponsor so all kudos to them. It’s just been a great event!

The nine-race circuit kicked off in Seoul in May, then on to Paris, New York and Manila. From Beijing, the circuit remains in Asia with races in Shanghai and Osaka before stopping over in London and closing with the Grand Finale in Hong Kong on December 2 where the world champion titles and end of season prizes will be awarded to the top ranked athletes.

Interested in running up a skyscraper near you? Check out the Vertical World Circuit calendar, including The Broadgate Tower Run Up this November 24 in London.

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8 ways to protect your feet in a heatwave

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8 ways to protect your feet in a heatwave
Running in the sunshine is good for the soul, it may not be so good for the soles of the feet. In fact,  the present heatwave brings with it a host of issues for runners’ feet. To help better understand this and what we can do about it, top UK podiatrist Doctor B (aka Dr Bharti Rajput), has compiled her top tips to ensure you put your best foot forward when running this summer…

Invest In Proper Trainers
No brainer? Well, we are all guilty of getting used to our one favourite pair of running shoes. And how to do we know that? Their smell! Well-loved trainers have a distinct pong if we don’t take better care of feet hygiene and invest in good quality running wear. The summer season is great time to invest in new shoes and ditch any over-worn, tired out running shoes that have had their day. In the heat, our feet expand quicker and further so those shoes you bought in the winter which felt so comfortable may be feeling tight. Yes, even running shoes have their own seasons so invest in a summer pair.

Have two pairs
One of the first and foremost important things is for runners to ensure that they have  two pairs of proper running trainers. There are many different types of running trainers, some being very cushioned and others imitating a bare foot feel, therefore choose ones that are right for your foot shape and ones that you feel comfortable and confident in. Some shoes are ideal for long runs and others are great for track or short races, your feet will know which shoe feels best but do get your feet properly measured so your shoes compliment your arch, weight and running style.

The 500 mile rule
Many people don’t think that trainers will lose their protective cushioning which is important to support the foot and protect the foot against injury. It is usually recommended that you should change you trainers every 500 miles, because the cushioning is likely to be worn out. Therefore be careful not to wear your trainers out before the big race itself, and have a back- up pair which you know has protective cushioning.

Tidy Up Your Toes
Another thing to consider when exercising is having neat and tidy toenails. If nails are left long you are more likely to get blistered and damaged toenails. With the additional sweat and heat of the summer, they are more likely to become bruised, black and blistered, which can cause them to fall off, causing pain and discomfort. Make clipping or cutting down your toe nails a weekly routine after a bath or shower.

Smooth & Soothe Your Feet
Having smooth, well-groomed feet isn’t just about aesthetics, it can have an impact on the comfort of your run too. If you have lumps of hard skin on the foot, they are likely to blister up after a long bout of exercise, which will cause great discomfort during and after the run. Therefore if you have any concerns please visit a podiatrist for treatment prior to the race.

Avoid Infections like Athletes Foot
Many people can frequently get athlete’s foot, however those who are active are much more likely to get back attacks of athlete’s foot. It’s not just from a lack of oxygen in the foot cave of our running shoes either. Some of us will have experienced athlete’s foot will have encountered the fungus from another person too from communal floors, changing rooms or even around swimming pools. However, athlete’s foot,  medically known as tinea pedis, is caused by tinea fungus growing on the foot. The type of fungus is known as a dermatophyte, which multiplies in hot and moist environments (such as runner trainers) and will cause an infection of the foot. Protect your feet in public places, including your running club changing room, by switching to a light pair of flip flops. After showering, be sure to really dry between the toes too.

Smelly feet?
Foot infections like Athletes Foot thrive in moist and dark places and can cause a range of symptoms including itchy, dry and cracked skin, which can whiten and become sore and blistered. While fungus causes the main infection, yeasts and bacteria may also develop and cause other symptoms such as smelly feet. Good foot hygiene is essential as is the regular application of a cream containing bifonazole such as Canesten Bifonazole Once Daily Cream. It’s an effective treatment that provides relief from itching and redness. The active ingredient bifonazole, penetrates deep into the skin, so the cream only needs to be applied once daily to clean, dry feet for 2-3 weeks, to kill the fungi and treat the infection.

Protect Against Painful Blisters
If you are prone to blisters, it is likely that it is due to increased friction between your foot and socks or shoes. To help avoid blisters, make sure that your shoe is fitted correctly and not too tight on any area of the foot, not just around the heel. You could try wearing two pairs of socks, one light pair and one slightly thicker pair. Wear the thinner pair in closest contract to the foot, which will help reduce friction.

For happy feet, try Canesten Bifonazole Once Daily Cream (RRP £5.49).
For more information on keeping your feet in tip top condition this summer go to: https://www.canesten.co.uk/

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Runners’ First Aid

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One of the best things about running is the way it embraces athletes of all levels, abilities and ages.

However, such an open-door policy can result in an increase in the chances of injury and ill health in participants, whether due to lack of physical fitness, a pre-existing injury or an undiagnosed medical condition. That is why the British Red Cross has launched the #UpYourGame campaign, targeting runners and event organisers to raise awareness and educate in effective, possibly life-saving first aid.

“We undertook a survey of runners to see how they would deal with accidents or emergencies when racing or training,” explains Tracey Taylor, First Aid Education Development Manager with the British Red Cross. Of the 912 regular runners questioned, over half (58%) said they would not have the confidence to help their running partners in a first aid emergency. “We found that 90% of runners surveyed said they would like to learn first aid or improve their first aid knowledge,” adds Taylor.

Better safe than sorry

Key to the Red Cross campaign is to emphasise the unlikelihood of any first aid training ever being needed on runs. But knowledge is power and knowing how to deal with a medical emergency, no matter how big or small, is a benefit – whether you’re wearing your running shoes or not.

This need to keep serious running injuries in perspective is echoed by other branches of medical care, too. “Traumatic injuries and incidents of cardiac issues among runners are exceptions,” explains James Vickers, physiotherapist at the Centre for Health and Human Performance. “When they do occur, they’re big news, simply because they’re so uncommon. Runners are generally more likely to suffer strains or sprains during an event, or ligament or muscle issues over the longer term, than anything severe.”

Know the Symptoms – Heat Exhaustion

“Your pulse quickens and your skin becomes flushed, more so than just a regular heightened reaction and adrenalin flush,” explains Luke Tester, 22, a medical school student from Buckinghamshire.

Fortunately for Luke, a training run didn’t turn to disaster as his experiences as a St Johns Ambulance volunteer stood him in good stead. “I’ve assisted many victims of heat exhaustion; I know what the signs are. If you don’t stop and start cooling yourself down it can turn very nasty. One guy I treated, although his eyes were open, was totally unresponsive.

He had a fast, bounding pulse and hot, flushed, dry skin. Another runner I treated was collapsed on the ground, delirious, thrashing around and shouting words and phrases that made no sense in the context. His skin was hot to touch and very dry, and he also had a fast and bounding pulse.

“I know from experience that once your body hits the temperatures (around 41°C) where heat exhaustion occurs, you need to use ice packs under the arms and in the groin to rapidly cool the body and prevent further damage.”

Medics also use cool intravenous fluids, which help reduce the temperature in the bloodstream, and good old cold water poured on the hot spots helps to keep removing heat. “With all these intensive measures, their temperatures came down fairly quickly and they both regained normal consciousness within 30 minutes.”

What to do: Heat exhaustion is caused when the body loses too much water and salt through excessive sweating. Help your running partner to lie down in a cool, shady place. Give them plenty of water to drink. Oral rehydration salts or isotonic drinks will help with salt replacement. Keep an eye on the person and call for help if their condition worsens.

Suspected heart attack

“In a way, I couldn’t have been luckier,” explains Mark Hawthorne, 46, from Derby. “There was a team of doctors and nurses from Glenfield Hospital running in the same race (a Derby Cross Country League event at Allestree Park).”

Mark blacked out and collapsed half-a-mile into the race. “I’d had no issues beforehand and training had gone well. I had no cause for concern. The next thing I knew I was coming round and covered in mud. I’d had a cardiac arrest.” The medics taking part in the race, including Dr Ruth Green, performed lifesaving CPR to revive Mark. “It’s a very simple technique, and in those first three minutes from the heart stopping it’s critical,” Dr Green explains.

What to do: If you are running near or with the person, you may see them stop suddenly and fall. They will not respond or move when you call their name or gently shake their shoulders.

Check if they are breathing by tilting their head backwards and looking and feeling for breaths.

Call 999 immediately or get someone else to do it.

Give chest compressions and ask someone to get an automated external defibrillator (AED) as soon as possible. Anyone can use an AED. Many public places such as sports centres now have one available. The machine will only shock someone if they need it – it would never shock a healthy heart.

Sprain or break

“I finished the London Marathon 2016 with a broken foot,” says Paul Chandler, 46, from Sunbury-on-Thames. “I was dressed as Iron Man and a couple of miles in I skidded and felt everything jar round my left ankle. It was so loud that the guy running next to me heard it and remarked, ‘Your leg’s just cracked!’

Paul continued to run, unaware of the extent of the damage he’d suffered. “It began to swell and although I tried to maintain a sub-four hour pace, by around 15K it became painful. I was really sweating, but shivering and feeling cold despite being very hot beneath the costume. A mix of adrenalin and stubbornness kicked in.

By the 35K point I had to stop. I took off my mask and looked down to see there was no discernible difference between the lower leg, ankle and foot – it was all one big swollen lump.”

The advice of the Red Cross, James Vickers and anyone who’d been with Paul on the day would have been to stop running, relieve the weight and pressure on the ankle and seek medical attention immediately. Not that Paul would’ve listened. “I just ploughed on through to the end,” he says, “Even though I felt physically sick, I wasn’t going to stop.” Even at the finish line, where the paramedics immediately advised him get an ambulance to A&E, he was reluctant.

“I knew that trying to get through Central London traffic that day would be a nightmare. We cobbled together a bundle of ice around the swelling and I sank a couple of beers while waiting for the crowds to clear.” (This course of action is obviously not endorsed by MR or The Red Cross).

In hospital it was confirmed that he’d broken his calcaneus (heel bone), two tarsals and also torn ligaments in his ankle, too. “I spent 10 weeks in an ‘air boot’ cast and it was seven months before I could run properly again.” At least the experience has taught Paul a lesson for the future: “If it happens again, I’ll definitely stop and get first aid straightway.”

What to do: It’s also extremely rare for a runner to suffer a break or fracture on a regular road route or a trail. But it’s not wholly unheard of, even among experienced pavement pounders.

Get the person to rest the injured part of their body in a raised, comfortable position. Symptoms will be pain, swelling and/or bruising round a joint or muscle. They may have difficulty moving the limb. An ice pack that can be moulded to the shape of the body will be more effective at cooling the injury. Apply it for no longer than 10 minutes. Anything over 10 minutes can cause damage to the skin. To differentiate between a broken bone, strain or sprain – an X-ray will be needed.


Visit Red Cross for free first aid advice for runners. Thanks to Cardiac Athletes and the British Heart Foundation.

 

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Join the million mile commute

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Million Mile Commute
Summer has officially arrived and it’s brought along a heatwave for the ride. That’s great news – until you get trapped in the daily commute, dodging rammed tube carriages, buses stuck in traffic jams, and certain rail companies cancelling services with little warning.

However, this July commuters will be encouraged to avoid the tube, trains and buses in a bid to commute a collective one million miles in just one month, as Red Bull’s Million Mile Commute returns for its second year.

Cyclists and runners throughout the country are urged to collectively rack up a million miles this summer on Strava, and by logging miles you can get various rewards. An on-can promotion (Red Bull Energy Drink & Red Bull Sugarfree 250ml cans) with a limited edition design will also give consumers a 30 days Strava premium access code.

In 2018, the challenge will run throughout July only – so Million Mile Commuters will have four weeks to hit one million miles and in doing so are eligible to win a number of prizes.

Reaching each distance milestone enters you into the draw for that and all preceding milestones:

  • The first 2500 people to log one mile will be sent a Red Bull sample pack
  • 10 MILES:  Limited Edition Strava socks (10 available)
  • 50 MILES: One-year Strava PREMIUM membership (10 available)
  • 100 MILES: Limited Edition Red Bull fridge for your office with a year’s supply of stock (5 available)
  • 250 MILES: MARIN FAIRFAX SC3 2018 bike provided by Cycle Surgery (1 available)

Sign up to the Red Bull Million Mile Commute at redbull.co.uk/MMC or join the conversation @RedBullUK #MillionMileCommute

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Marathon des Sables

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In 1984 French concert promoter Patrick Bauer went for a walk: a 200-mile walk in the Sahara desert.

Afterwards, whether through altruism or sadism (more likely the latter), he decided other people should follow in his footsteps. And the Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands) was born, a multi-stage race of roughly 250K (it varies each year) through Morocco’s Sahara Desert.

It was first run in 1986, with 186 competitors, and 32 years later that number is close to 1200. Ever since the Discovery Channel followed James Cracknell’s attempt, the British presence at MdS has been huge and, for many, it’s their first event of this nature.

But it has its detractors, including myself. I once wrote that the Marathon des Sables (MdS) is, “incredibly expensive, more famous than it deserves to be and there are many, many, many more spectacular, impressive, interesting and demanding events around.” But that was before, er, I’d actually done it. This April I ran the 32nd MdS. So is it time to sit down, tuck my napkin in and treat myself to a large slice of (dehydrated) humble pie?

Some ultrarunners are snobbish about MdS, partly because it continually rolls out the epithet ‘toughest footrace on Earth’, when clearly it isn’t even close. You only need to see MdS’s completion rate of well over 90%, compared to less than 50% for many ultras, to see there are several races tougher than the Sahara’s most photographed, even in the UK. Sure, sand, a heavy pack and 50 ̊C temperatures aren’t conducive to a comfortable jogging holiday but the cut-offs are generous enough that it can be hiked.

The Marathon of the Sands also costs almost £4,000 to enter (including return flights to Morocco) putting it out of reach for the majority of runners. I was one of those haughty runners who pretended I wasn’t interested in MdS. Then, by very good fortune, I was offered a place and the images of vulnerable runner versus punishing desert started to look compelling. Plus I’d never visited Africa, let alone the Sahara. But I went to Morocco with some concerns.

Intense intents in tents

I’ve only been running long distances for four years and my wife says I’m addicted. I can’t imagine not doing it. I’ve completed the Spine Race, Dragon’s Back Race, UTMB, set a fastest known time on the 630-mile South West Coast Path and represented GB at ultra-trail running.

I know that if you pace it sensibly and keep shoving cake in, you can pretty much run forever. I appreciate I’m in the minority when I say that 237K over six days isn’t too intimidating to me. But sand is. Temperatures of 50 ̊C are. And running with a heavy pack sure makes me grumpy. So I took no luxuries – no pillow, stove or camp shoes – only enough sleeping mat for my hips and barely enough food.

Other concerns include heat stroke, dehydration, hypernatremia (we’re instructed to take two salt tablets per 1.5 litres of water) and camel spiders. Also, I only had five weeks’ training; my longest run just 19 miles, my biggest week 53 miles. I was only half-fit. And I knew I’d be hungry.

But I got some help. Running Reborn’s Shane Benzie taught me about running in sand; registered sports dietician Renee McGregor gave me some key nutrition tips; and University of Bath let me use its heat chamber.

Arriving in the Sahara – stonier than I’d imagined – wearied after a three-hour flight and six-hour bus journey, the organisational scale of MdS hit me.

There’s a huge, three-deep circle of black tents, hundreds of them, for the 1,200 runners, and another small village of white tents for the 700-plus staff. Jeeps and lorries are everywhere. Helicopters whirr overhead. It looks like a refugee camp, albeit a very nice one.

Meeting my tent mates feels like the first day in the Big Brother house. Whether it’s the cold, my minimal sleeping mat or nerves, I don’t sleep well on the first night.

Crazy in the heat

Day one is mostly spent queuing to get race admin done. The next morning, we’re standing under a huge white inflatable arch, with AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ blasting out and a helicopter circling overhead. Then we charge into the desert.

I watch helplessly as the speedy Moroccans glide over the sand and out of view. We cross stony plateaus and small dunes, all under the hot sun – it’s somewhere above 45 ̊C. It’s OK when we’re blessed with breeze, otherwise we’re turkeys inside an oven on Christmas morning. The terrain is worse though. Dunes may look nice in photos, but they’re horrible to run on. You’d barely call it running.

Whether it’s rising temperatures or the limit of my current fitness, at 25K everything feels more difficult. Runners pass me and I stop to empty sand from a shoe. Confusingly though, there’s none to empty out. I finally tumble across the finish line into a camp. It’s been about the hardest 30K race I’ve ever run.

A soon-familiar routine starts: a shot of sweet mint tea, collect water and start clearing stones from under the rug in anticipation of my tent mates’ arrival. They appear in various states of disarray. Each day at least one comes in shaken and stirred, crashing to the floor, needing cooling down, persuading to drink and eat, or a trip to the medical tent, Dr Trotters, where one tent mate narrowly avoids an IV drip.

(When racing out here, if you let hydration, nutrition, body temperature or salt intake slip, even for a few minutes, it hits you hard.)

The delivery of printed emails is a daily highlight. Except that I’m next to Twitter’s Susie Chan, who gets literally hundreds of messages, to my five. In no time, pooing in a plastic bag, using my Inov-8 Terraclaws as a pillow and being permanently covered in dust all seem entirely normal. MdS trashes feet like no other race, but I only have two small blisters. I try to keep quiet about that as my tent mates will only hate me.

Day two is 40K, but with fewer dunes and more flat stretches.

I enjoy it initially, running with women’s race leader Elisabet Barnes and an anonymous Frenchman for some time. But again at 25K things suddenly feel hard. I fight a losing battle with dunes, before climbing a small rugged ridge, a jebel, via a canyon that cooks me alive. From the top though it’s a hilarious steep-sandy descent and I thunder down, whooping and kicking up a storm of sand.

Day three begins with the sight of some retirees sheepishly queuing for transport home but otherwise it’s ace. With improving fitness, acclimatisation and a more technical, mountainous route, I love chasing Elisabet along a technical ridge, with huge views of Saharan valleys and small mountain ridges either side. It’s skyrunning in the desert and learning to see the deceptive beauty in the barren scenery. It’s awe-inspiring to see how relentlessly hard Elisabet and ultra-trail champion Nathalie Mauclair work.

We need a rope to help climb back up yesterday’s jebel. After a fun rocky descent, we scrap with more cursed dunes. We lose markers briefly, before 6K on a hard stony plateau – like running on Lego – where temperatures are in the high 50s. I see mirages of a camp ahead.

Mr Sandman

For the infamous 86K ‘long day,’ instead of starting at the normal 8.30ish, the top 50 are held back for logistical reasons till 11.30, when it’s hotter. Some local boys run with me for a while and we high-five. I start to pass the runners who left earlier, offering encouragement when I can muster it.

But as it gets hotter it gets sandier. I work harder but go slower. I now need three litres of water between checkpoints, which are every 10-12K. A cursed endless stretch of dunes slows me again, and I feel hungry and grumpy for the last 20K, arriving at camp close to 10pm under another wondrously bright moon, after nearly 11 hours of running/dune battling.

By lunchtime the next day – a rest day for most of us, which soon has my tummy rumbling – two tent mates still aren’t back and we’re worried. One of their trackers has disappeared, we’re told. But finally we see them and those who can, dash across the stony desert to help them back to the tent. Their efforts – Jo has rheumatoid arthritis making his joints super-painful, Mark severe chafing in the worst possible places – are so inspiring. They’re cracking jokes within seconds of arrival.

After a marathon on the final day, there’s a party feel at our final camp and a band playing incongruously in the desert. Queues for a single can of beer are long and desperate, before presentations and a short film of the 2017 race.

On day seven, after a 7K hike and a six- hour bus journey, we return to Ouarzazate and the most beautiful sight in the world: the biggest, tastiest buffet I’ve ever seen. I eat so much I can hardly sleep due to discomfort and toilet visits.

Did I eat any humble pie? A mouthful or two, but not a whole slice. It’s a very expensive race. But you can see why. I’ve done several tougher races. But MdS is still a really testing event, especially for those who spend so much longer out in the desert – for some, their long day was longer than my whole race. Especially the guy who ran the whole thing dressed as a cow, another playing a ukulele, double-amputee Duncan Slater, cancer-defying Kevin Webber and other heroes like them.

My most special memories aren’t about the running though, but life at camp. It’s been years since I spent so much time without anything to do. All this glorious lazing around, doing old-fashioned things, such as talking. Under our precious piece of shaggy, dusty, black cloth, a tribe was formed. We shared kindness, precious calories and bad jokes. When the going got tough, it was tent mates pushing each other onwards.


THE FIVE TOUGHEST ASPECTS OF MdS

■ The heat. With temperatures in the high 50s, keep body temperature down with a regular dousing of water. Key areas are neck, armpits and groin. Pre-race heat acclimatisation is also key.

■ The feet. MdS trashes feet. Gaiters are essential, but the Velcro rand can change the shape of your shoes, so some go half a size up. A combo of Inov-8 Terraclaws, Injinji socks and Camphor Spray worked very well for this writer.

■ The pack. Minimum pack weight is 6.5kg. Much more will slow you down, meaning you’re out in the heat longer and more likely to have problems. Do you really need that feather down jacket?

■ The sand. MdS is less sandier than you might imagine. But dunes are a swear word. When climbing, try to spread weight laterally, says Running Reborn’s Shane Benzie, to limit sliding.

■ The fuelling. As body temperature rises, it’s less able to digest carbs, says nutritionist Renee McGregor, so you’re more reliant on carb stores you already have. Eat early to avoid ‘bonking’.

SWELTERING SAHARA

Where is it? The Sahara (‘the Greatest Desert’) is the largest hot desert and third largest desert in the world, after Antarctica and the Arctic. At 9,200,000sq km it’s comparable to the US in size and takes up most of North Africa, stretching from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.

What’s the terrain? There are plenty of dunes, which are very picturesque but hell to run/move in. But much of
it is stony plateaus (think running on Lego), salt flats, dry mud – mostly good, fast running. Small rugged ridges and jebels provide welcome relief/horrible climbs, depending  on how you see it. The Sahara has genuine mountains, reaching over 3,000m, though not at MdS, where overall vertical gain is negligible.

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Colshaw Hall 10K

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Colshaw Hall 10K

If you’re a fan of road races but prefer the leafier surrounds of the countryside to slogging it through city streets, then this 10K could be just your bag. The race starts and finishes in the shadow of the grade II listed Colshaw Hall. The large house forms part of a picturesque country estate in the Cheshire village of Over Peover, which sounds like a toilet technique used by time-conscious trail enthusiasts. There’s also a Lower Peover and Peover Heath (insert your own runner-related toilet jokes here).

More than 1,000 people had signed up for the race, with significant a from number from north-west based running clubs. And many would have been hoping for a PB on the fast and largely flat course. But there were evidently runners of all abilities there, and also a 1K fun aimed at four to 14-year-olds.

The 10K follows a roughly triangular route along closed country lanes south of the Hall. The main feature en route is the iconic Lovell Telescope at the Joddrell Bank Observatory, which runners pass before returning to the finish along the Hall’s tree-lined driveway. As the field set off I knew my own hopes for a PB had all but disappeared due to a packed early summer running diary. In fact, it was my third race in four days so I knew it was going to be a little tough. A few hillier sections early on didn’t help and after mile two I could already feel the fatigue in my legs and I began to lose ground on those ahead of me. I tried to channel Czech legend Emil Zátopek, who was known to up his pace when he felt tired, but after a few shorts bursts of acceleration I knew this was a misguided strategy. Thankfully, I chose ease off the pace just as the spectacular Lovell Telescope came into view for the first time. Even from this distance – around a half mile away – it looked impressive. It’s one of the biggest and most powerful radio telescopes in the world and has quietly probed away at space’s dark depths for more than 60 years in the hope of revealing more about the universe in which we live. 

The telescope remained in eyeshot until the course turned for home after mile four and I found my my mind straying from the realities of the race to thoughts of what might be ‘out there’. But Earth’s gravitational pull on my body continued to pose more immediate questions for me as runners I’d passed a long time ago began to overtake me. By now, I realised there was no possibility of maintaining my usual 10K pace over the final couple of miles. But like many other runners I take pride in giving a race my best shot and I always enjoy a sprint finish, even if I feel tired. So as my watch showed half a mile to go I decided to catch up with a small group who’d opened up a gap ahead of me. Then, with 400m remaining, I went through the gears to overhaul them in the final straight. So I had something to smile about, despite missing my PB by more than three minutes! 

The race is well organised, friendly and reasonably priced, plus the finisher’s medal is one of the largest and most eye-catching you’ll find. Aside from the Joddrell Bank, there are many other nearby attractions, such as Tatton Park, which means you can make a day of it with the family if you wish. And for those who just enjoy a post-race drink the nearest pub is about 5 minutes walk away from the finish. 

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Ultra Marathon Training Tips

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ultra marathon training tips

‘Going longer’ that is to say, going longer than the classic 26.2 marathon distance, is becoming increasingly popular with runners challenging themselves over longer distances from 50k right through to 100 mile races and beyond. In this blog we cover top training tips for ultramarathon training from the experts at OOFOS.

More than miles: Time on feet is certainly important but don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s all about easy miles. ‘Quality’ sessions should still feature in your weekly mix.
Try this: Build in a weekly ‘tempo’ run where you get used to building up blocks of time a ‘controlled discomfort’ or 3-4 word answer effort. Within a 45-60 minute run start with a simple 5 x 5 minutes at this effort with a short 90 second jogged recovery and then build to 6 x 5 minutes, 3 x 10 minutes, 20/10/5 minutes or even 30 minutes continuously as the week’s progress.

The hills are alive: Ultra’s need strength, no you don’t need to look like a body builder but what you do need is strength endurance – the ability to hold your effort and posture with many miles already in the legs.
Try this: One way to do this could be to run the ‘tempo effort’ runs above up and down a stretch of hill – getting used to running faster up AND down hill is great for building all around strength.

Love your limbs: Your legs and feet will take a hard going over in your ultra races and from all the miles in training. Develop some good recovery protocols to keep your limbs alive and ticking.
Try this: A sports massage every 2-3 weeks can really help keep on top of a build-up in muscle fatigue, compression garments both on the run and to promote post run recovery can be useful and look after your key weapon, your feet, by wearing OOFOS shoes – especially after those key long runs and hard sessions.

On your hike: If you are running a longer distance ultra or racing in the mountains the chances are you’ll be walking for stretches on race day. Don’t let your ego ruin a great race by not practising this in training – don’t be surprised on race day if an effective walker overtakes you as you try to run if you haven’t practised!
Try this: Practise ‘power walking’ especially on steep gradients replacing running with a powerful walk, leaning forwards slightly to mimic the gradient of the hill, either driving your arms or handing your hands on your quads on very steep gradients.

Surface level: Ultra training is all about specificity – that means getting your body prepared for what you will find on race day, and this includes getting used to the surface you’re going to race on.
Try this: Whether running a 5k or an ultra I would always recommend doing the majority of your miles off road, but why not try including stretches of running on your ‘race terrain’ in the final 60-90 minutes of your key long runs – whether that be on steep technical hills, or flat road or track surfaces.

Find a balance: A effective training regime is all about balance – balancing the stress of training with the right amount and quality of recovery to progress as we get fitter when we recover, not when we train.
Try this: Train to a plan that is realistic and recognises your other life stresses such as work and family. Be very careful in particular with your long runs, there have been many ultra runners who leave themselves exhausted by trying to run too far or tackle back to back long runs when they are not ready.

Eat for victory: Training fasted or when deplete to often or too far will massively impact on your recovery, on race day your fuelling strategy will make or break your performance and you must practise eating and drinking on the move in training.
Try this: Solid foods are a sensible option if you are tackling a long distance ultra but they can take some getting used to when running….that’s what training is for!

Test yourself: Practice your race kit, pacing and fuelling so when the gun goes on race day you feel confident and have a plan.
Try this: Consider entering a 10k, half or if you are experienced even a marathon but complete it in your ultra kit, fuelling as per your ultra and at your ultra race pace. This way you’ll learn to control your ego which will tell you to go faster than you should do!

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Aussie Grit Apparel: Built for the trails

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Aussie Grit Apparel: Built for the trails

When Mark Webber founded Aussie Grit Apparel, the goal was simple: to create truly functional off-road garments, so you can focus on your run. The team worked hard to build a range of off-road running gear that is robust, understated and comfortable.

Now, the team at Aussie Grit wants to offer readers an exclusive 10% discount off your first purchase so you can try it for yourself.

Use the code mrun10 in the checkout at www.aussiegritapparel.com to claim your offer. This limited offer is available until 30 June 2018.

Since the products were released, reviews have flooded in for the flint range with trail runners praising the new brand for their careful design which boasts a complete lack of negatives.

Here are a few of our favourite reviews:

“He (Mark Webber) has gone all out to design what you would describe as the perfect product. What I realized road testing is that the shirt is really fantastic. Really light weight but really strong and when you’re running, it almost feels like you forget that you’re even wearing a shirt.” – Aussie Runners podcast

“Aussie Grit Apparel Flint shorts are a high quality, comfortable 2 in 1 compression short for runners seeking a little luxury. Inspired by Formula One they might even make you run fast!” – fellrunningguide.co.uk

Aussie Grit Apparel is about to release more colours and items in the flint range, so keep an eye on @aussiegritapparel on Instagram.

Shop now at www.aussiegritapparel.com

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