We run and we run RaceBest. This blog is about running, but it's also about what we're up to at RaceBest.

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I’m a road runner baby

The trail or the road?  The path less travelled or the route much trammelled?  You don’t have to choose, you don’t have to be exclusive, you can play the field, but ultimately you will have a type.  I nailed my colours firmly to the mast recently when I wrote of a local trail race:  

“…In the great running dichotomy between hard grey tarmacadam or wet, brown mud, I lean decidedly towards the hard stuff.  Actually I more than lean, I lie firmly down upon it.  I am a road runner (baby). Cut me and I bleed blacktop.  Running for me is about the rhythm, the even pace, the zoning out and tuning in; the eyes on the horizon.  Whereas it seems to me that off-road is a never ending, series of millisecond micro-decisions weighing up every single step, eyes fixed permanently on the ground.  It’s stop start, up down, over stiles and under branches (6ft 2 is not a good height for trail runners). It’s an opportunity for the fleet-footed and nimble, the graceful and agile to remind me how heavy, clumsy and lumpen I am.  And okay, there’s all that pretty countryside to run through, but I never see the views, because there’s no opportunity to look up because every step is a potential death trap, what with rocks and roots and holes all vying for your attention and tempting your toes to tripping.  In a nutshell, it’s stressful, not relaxing and I want my running to reduce my stress not add to it.” (The full review can be read here).

A man’s got to know his limitations. Running on the road can liberate me from those limitations, those demons that plague me, that I can recite at the least provocation.  Running on the road gives me space to breathe, space to think and space to float away from life’s gravity for a moment.  But off road running fails me in this regard and never ceases to remind me of my weight, height and all round disagility (which I know is not a word, but it is what I am, dis-agile).  Some trails I like a lot (many of them in the Scottish Highlands), but I like them for training, not racing. Maybe that’s the real distinction here; it’s not about running, it’s about racing. I like to train the trails, even tame the trails, but I like to race the roads.

“Roadrunner, roadrunner, going faster miles an hour..”


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The Charge of the Dewsbury 10

One long league out
One long league back
Into the winter sun
Ran the ten hundred (and sixty three)

Runners to the right of them
Runners to the left of them
Runners in front of them
Race in the chill wind
Smile in blue skies surprise

Into the blinding sun
Runners to the right of them
Runners to the left of them
Runners behind them
Under the bridge and home
As Shoddy and Mungo
Herald the returning horde

Boldly they ran and well
Relish the race they ran
Relish the Dewsbury 10
Nimble ten hundred (and sixty three)

©lct 02/02/14

Photos here

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Beat The Clock

Race number? Check.  Safety pins? Check.  Shirt, shorts, shoes? Check.  Gels, jelly babies, jelly-legged jalopy? Check.  

Oh it’s all coming together like a Flaming Pie’d Beatle with a yen for Japan.  Or a Byrne’d out talking head on a road to nowhere.  Or a zimmer man with any number of roads he’s impelled to walk down.  Talking of which, I’m on the low road and she’s on the high road, and many will be in Scotland before wee me.  I start in London, she starts with a Regent, but we both end at Muscle Beach…or something like that.

I’m talking Edinburgh Marathon Blues. Numbers, pins and energy tablets arrived today, so barring limb loss we will be on our way in ten days to the Scottish capital to run 26.2 miles for no other cause than the mere fact we can. Which is enough. I think.

The long runs are behind us, the long run before us. We’re tapering hard (if that’s possible, because frankly tapering is easy, running less has never been a problem for me). Targets have been set, plans and splits discussed, fuel strategies practised.  I’m as prepared as a boy scout with a Prince 2 badge.  So like a moustachioed Mael and his kid brother all I have to do is beat the clock (you gotta beat the clock, you gotta beat the clock).

What can possibly go wrong?

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“Running to stand still”

Marathons. Not Snickers. Marathons. Damn Pheidippides. Never trust a Greek bearing gifts, particularly when it’s a hundred hands high horse (or Hattori Hanzō sword), or an offer of a comes-up-peanuts-slice-after-slice  enduring endurance event.  Incidentally who, in the name of all that is 30%-cocoa-solid holy, slices a peanut-packed, nougat nosh?  Slice after slice?  It’s not a loaf of bread.  For good reason, Jesus (I’m not taking his name in vain here, I’m introducing him into the narrative; keep up) did not feed the five thousand with a multipack of chocolate bars and two fishes, because they would have starved!  You try slicing five Snickers amongst five thousand people.  Someone will be left out and they’ll probably complain about it too.  And those that do get a morsel, well the slice would be so thin, and what with the high day time temperatures in the Holy Land, a meltdown would be inevitable (because I’m sure as creme eggs is creme eggs He didn’t think to bring a cool box to the party).  Should have brought Minstrels, mate!  Now, those He could have shared out much more easily, but I suspect more than five bags would have been required.

Anyway, I’m currently training for my 98th Marathon, although I have to confess that 94 of these may have involved no more effort than a trip to the newsagent, an entry fee of circa 50p and the arduous task of peeling off a cellophane wrapper.  Dammit, I’ve wandered off topic, back down the confectionery route.  These things are so easily confused.  I do wish Pheidippides had not run to a place with the same name as one of the more popular 1970s chocolate bars.  If he’d run to Mile End say, it would have been much easier to remember and I think the Virgin London Mile would have been somewhat easier to complete too.

Incidentally, chocolate-trivia fans, in 2008, Mars revived the name Marathon to brand a new range of energy/protein bars; “powered by Snickers” they said.  No, I don’t know what that means either.

In truth (or in Wikipedia, which passes for truth in the pot-holed information supermilkyhighway of the 21st century) Pheidippides ran an ultra, not a marathon.  He ran 150 miles in two days and then ran 25 miles from Snickers (sorry, Marathon) to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia.  Then he dropped dead.  Ran to a stand still, if you will.  That’s not part of my plan, not part of my schedule, not an element in my 16-week, Runners World-endorsed, training programme.  Nowhere in the plan does it say run 26.2 miles, cross finish line, keel over, draw one final breath, sigh, say something memorable like “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do” or “You’re my wife now, Dave” and then shuffle off this mortal coil accompanied by a heavenly host of angels (as opposed to “Angels” because if that’s playing I’m off to meet Robert Johnson at the crossroads and get me the number of the dude down below).  So I don’t intend to.  If it’s not on the schedule it’s not going to happen.  Kapeesh?

Okay, my Mizunos are calling me, the tarmac beckons.  One more long, long, long run, a bit of tapering, one killer Sunday morning and then I can stand still.  And I will. For a little bit, at least.

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“Don’t follow leaders, Watch the parkin’ meters”

I often wonder as I trudge around my latest race, what it must be like for a frontrunner.  Those of us who never have been frontrunners (in running or even in life and some would suggest they are the same thing, but that’s a digression for another day) and never will be (apologies to Haile Gebrselassie if you’re reading this, this clearly does not apply to you), spend our Sunday mornings toiling in and amongst the crowd; sometimes a crowd of many thousands, sometimes a crowd of few hundreds, but a crowd nonetheless.

There’s wisdom in crowds they say (well Derren Brown says,  and I believe everything he says ever since he turned up at the foot of my bed at 3 in the morning with a Channel 4 film crew).  Last week at a race reminiscent of the old joke about primates in need of a blow torch (that’s torch you, stop giggling at the back and pay attention), two members of Beverley AC tucked in, just behind me in 575th and 576th respectively, and proceeded to prattle on about mile splits, kilometre paces, race results and the cultural hegemony of the bourgeoisie built upon the false consciousness of the proletariat and their commodity fetishism (or it might have been about last night’s Top Gear, it was hard to be sure once my eyelids started to droop).  I’d like to say that their intellect, their sagacity, their wisdom filled me with a love of my fellow man, but I’d be lying.  It just annoyed me.  And I kept thinking, if you can talk so much in this race, you can’t really be trying.  And to prove it, I will try and that’ll show you.  It will show you to be the racing equivalents of Sunday drivers and then you’ll look silly.  Oh yes!  So I put the pedal to the metal and left them for dust.  Well, sort of.  In my head it definitely looked like that.  A more objective observer might have noted a marginal quickening of shuffle achieved through much puffing and wheezing that, over the course of 2-3 miles left them, ooh, at least fifty feet behind.  But I could hear them no more and that my friends was enough for me.

And as I surged on (maybe laboured would be a more apt verb at this point) I found peace enough to ponder to myself that if I’d been up front I wouldn’t have suffered this.  I told myself that out there at the front instead of the taste-free dazzle of fluorescent pink and yellow polyester, the stench of the unwashed and somewhat slightly grazed, the tinnitus of the MP3 and the torrential thunder of Saucony-shod Judoon, I’d have clear grey tarmac in my sight, fresh air in my nostrils, a song in my heart and the gentle chirruping of mistle thrushes in my ears. Because that is what it’s like at the front, isn’t it Haile? It’s just like that, isn’t it?

In the meantime, my friends, keep on running, keep on hiding…