Monday, 14 April 2014


It's been a few weeks since I last posted on the blog, which is unusual for me, but then again I've not been running for a few weeks which is unusual for me!

I decided to give my sore Achilles a proper rest. Resting now at the start of spring rather than missing out another summer of running seems the wise thing to do. As well as resting the heel, I've used the down time to rid my self of a few other general aches and pains that have accumulated through years of what's probably been poor running form.

I've shut down and have restarted, reset to default factory settings and am starting over.

Where I've not been running I've concentrated on my diet. By that I've not done nothing extreme but have reduced portion sizes cut down the treats to a minimum and eat as little processed rubbish as possible. I still enjoy good hearty dinners like lasagne, shepherds pie and chicken pie, but the difference is it's all made from scratch and I know exactly what ingredients are going into each meal. I love my food and the most important aspect to me is that its enjoyable, its such an important part of our lives and I cant think of anything more miserable than all these fad diets circulating at the moment. A good balanced diet is where its at and with no running involved I've actually lost weight the last few weeks! I've reintroduced green smoothies back in the diet, as I've really noticed the difference between having them and not, they give me so much more energy for the day.

I'm also trying to stretch more, I'm learning how important that really is as the years advance.

Watching the London marathon on Sunday really got me fired up and ready to run again, so today I decided a gentle 3.5 miles was in order to see how I was feeling. I have a couple of readers on the blog from Asheville in the United States who regularly leave valuable comments on my posts that I adhere to. My running guru's Bart and Eve from running blog Blue ridge runner replied to my last post about how one of their doctors believes in active recovery, so that's what I'm aiming to do. Limit my weeks running to a few gentle short runs while I work through this injury with plenty of stretching and icing along the way.

While I keep the running low key and slow I'm also going to concentrate on my running form another element to my running that really needs improving.

As you can see it really is back to the drawing board and getting back to basics as I rebuild my training.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Aches and pains!

If you read my last post, you would have thought I had found the miracle cure for my Achilles problems....alas, I'm still suffering. It's true the eccentric stretching has helped a lot but realistically it wasn't going to heel (forgive the pun...I mean heal) the problem in a couple of days.

After a couple of weeks of low key running and my new found stretches, rather than run my regular 13 miles into work last Friday I thought I'd be sensible and drive within 5 miles of the office, run in and then run back to the car later. The run to work was OK'ish but the run back was painful and I finally admitted defeat and have now resigned myself to a couple of weeks rest and stretching.

It's frustrating, last summer I spent out with a busted ankle and now this! It seems like I'm falling apart!

I've not felt 100% in my running for a long time now. The last time I felt really good and strong was when I ran the London marathon back in 2012. I think the years are catching up with me. I'm starting to feel old! I think my biomechanics are useless, by back hurts, neck gets stiff and shoulder aches. I feel like I need to be put on one of those medieval stretching devices they used to torture people with. It would stretch out all my knots and aches in my body.

I need to spend this down time from running sorting my body out, don't laugh but I think I'd benefit from some Yoga! I need to rustle up the motivation and spend half an hour a day working on all these aches and pains. 

I'd like to think I've still got some good years running ahead of me or maybe I peaked back in 2012. I'm a day shy of my 43rd birthday...jeez that's the first time I've seen that number written down...that's old isn't it? The trouble is the older I get the harder it seems to get over these hurdles. Rather than stretching I'd rather be enjoying a glass of Rioja watching the football! I've not lost my motivation to run, I still love it, but I only love it when things feel good. The harder it is to overcome these injuries the harder it is to enjoy pain free running.

I'll be back, this post is all about allowing myself to feel sorry for myself, but what I need to do is dust myself down, and concentrate on getting my body in some sort of order to enjoy running again.

As I'm writing this post, I've just remembered that I have my Ryan Giggs yoga video somewhere. I did a review of this on a previous post, it was actually quite good, maybe I will give that another go. Now Ryan Giggs is professional footballer (soccer for you American readers!) who has totally looked after himself and is only a couple of years younger than me and he's still playing at the highest level.

Well I'm going to enjoy my last day of being 42 and make plans to be a fitter and stronger 43 year old runner.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Eccentric calf stretches - Achilles tendinitis

A month of debilitating Achilles pain and the fear of another summer of no running was dispelled this week with some sound advice.

I was resigned to a bout of chronic Achilles tendinitis but after some exchange of emails with Helen at Finefettle with some great stretching advice and the running God's are shining back down on me.

Helen, who had helped me through my nightmare tendon busting ankle injury last year, advised me on trying some eccentric stretching. I had been stretching my calf's religiously the last month with the typical leaning against the wall exercises, leg straight, leg bent blah blah blah.I had been prescribed to do these plus foam rolling last time around when I had the same problem 4 years ago, but I had never heard of eccentric stretching before.

4 years ago the injury was chronic and it took months to get over, this time round it felt the same, waking every morning and taking those first painful steps till the tendon got warmed up after it's night of inactivity. I had nothing to lose, so one lunchtime I took myself out of the office and onto the lobby stairs. I completed 3 sets of 15 reps of the two exercises advised, one with the leg straight and the another with the knee slightly bent.

It's important to start in the raised position and then lowering the heel of the injured leg below the step, that's the full eccentric stretch.

After a few minutes back sat at my desk my Achilles had a pleasant warming feeling to it and then suddenly felt like some sort of movement restriction had been released in my right ankle. That's the best way I can describe it and after just one session the pain for the rest of the afternoon had all but disappeared. It truly was like a miracle! Surely after 5 minutes of stretching this nightmare of a runners injury was not cured?

The exercises should be carried out 2 or 3 times a day, which I am sticking to. 

The next day I head out for a short 4 mile run with only the slightest murmuring from my beaten Achilles tendinitis! 

At the time of writing I've now gone 4 days of stretching and the results have been miraculous. I'm going to keep the mileage down over the weekend and take the runs steady.

My calf muscle has been a little sore after completing the exercises but this is apparently quite normal.

I may have caught my injury early this time round and responded well to the stretching, it may not be for everyone but if anyone out there gets the slightest murmuring of their Achilles, get onto these stretches straight away!!!

This is the link to a YouTube video that shows you how to carry out the stretches correctly.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Oh woe me

Back in June 2010, nearly 4 years ago, I suffered my first serious running related injury - achilles tendinitis....well guess what, like an unwanted visit from the tax man, it's back!

I can't believe it, last summer I couldn't run after wrecking my ankle from jumping off a wall to get to a start line of a race, and now with summer approaching again, this turns up. Maybe it's karma from my Ultrarunning rant! ;-)

So now what? Well at least I have the experience, having been through it once, to get through it again. 

I know it's all related to my tight calf's, so I need to keep stretching like a madman and dare I say them horrible awful two words, feared by every runner......FOAM ROLL....Argghhh!!!

Ever since the injury back in 2010, I've been running with orthotics in my trainers, which has kept me injury free (apart from the wall jump injury). 

A couple of months back I got my new Solomon's which don't have the support and cushioning I'm used to. I should have put the orthotics in them to run, I haven't and....voila!...achilles tendinitis!

Hopefully I've caught it early, I've rested and stretched so I may next week try running again in my supported trainers and see where we go from there....fingers crossed!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Running Free - Richard Askwith

I have to admit I struggled with the Author's last book; the award winning 'Feet in the Clouds'. It must have been me because it has so many positive reviews and is one of the most popular running books out there. I've never got to the end, I keep trying as I feel I should, like I'm missing out; alas.

But from reading the first pages of the new book it struck a chord:

"Even when the window through which I'm gazing belongs to an urban office, my notional self will skip unthinkingly over jostling traffic jams and pavements, escaping to the unexplored parks, rivers and open spaces.....But I notice it most when I'm looking at the passing countryside from a car or train"

That's exactly what I'm thinking most the time, I had connected to the book in the first paragraph, and I stayed connected throughout.

The words on the cover 'A runners journey back to nature' describes the book brilliantly, how the author has relaxed in his running and connected with the real joys of running in the countryside. Gone are the days of chasing PB's and pounding pavements, even the sports watch has been disbanded; "By the time I reached my mid-forties, then the watch becomes a tool not of motivation but of discouragement"

Essentially this is a diary of running through the seasons on the Northamptonshire countryside with his faithful running partner, Nutmeg the dog. The accounts are described so beautifully that you want to lace up your trainers and get out in the countryside whatever the weather.

I could relate to many things in the book, from the sounds of the first woodpeckers heard in spring to running in heavy downpours of a wet Winter. One experience I couldn't relate to and I don't think many of us could, was where by a chance meeting, Askwith regularly for a period of time became 'the hunt' for the local farmers Bloodhounds! Something certainly different and a novel way of getting the miles in for the week!

Chapters of the authors seasonal running, are broken intermediatley with chapters exploring the reasons of why we run and escaping the multimillion pound industry that goes with running. From the price of our shiny branded kit to the racing events that we pay for the priveledge of doing something that essentially should be stripped back to simply putting one foot in front of the other. This works really well through the book challenging and provoking the reader on subjects such as obstacle races, gym's, urban running, the expense of running kit and barefoot running of which Askwith is an advocate of. 

From an author whose first book I couldn't relate to, and from all the running books I've read (and I've read quite a few!) this book has to be one of the best I've read. 

Askwith talks through the book about the seven ages of running that he came up with. The first age being the novice, happy to run their first miles, to the second age of running which now excites, where life has to to be juggled to accommodate this new habit. The third age where there's no longer huge bounds in improving PB's so one looks to all running sources for tips and advice, and having all the latest shiny kit is a must! Somewhere after these early 'ages' of running is where I'm guessing the 53 year old author is now, back to basics and simply running for the enjoyment and no other reasons, no times recorded, no distances logged. 

I'm ten years younger than the author but feel I'm at the same 'age of running' as Askwith, which is why the book was so enjoyable.

This book must become a part of any runners library. I urge you to read, It will become a bestseller and a classic to surpass his first.

Running free, by Richard Askwith, published by Yellow Jersey Press is available from 6th March 2014.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Trails of the unexpected

The UK has suffered it's wettest winter on record. Costal towns and villages near rivers that have burst their banks have caused serious damage to properties and chaos up and down the country. Add to this the high winds we've been getting and it's really been a winter to forget.

Although personally I've not been affected by the floods to the extent of others, the local trails have become saturated, lots of surface water and deep mud. So running the trails now takes twice the effort to get through the leg sapping mud and an all round tougher workout.

My 10K night trail race the other week was one of the toughest I've run due to the conditions underfoot.

Well a remarkable thing happened today (Sunday) the forecast for the whole day was.....Sunshine! 

I wasn't going to miss the chance to get out for some decent miles in the sun, so I head out on one of my favourite local runs which takes me up over the Hogs Back and onto the North Downs Way, an area of beautiful rolling hills, woodland, trails and....Mud! Lots of it!

I took a few pictures along the way to show the effects the weather has had on our UK trails.

It wasn't long once I hit the trails for the first surface water to appear.

A stretch of road before hitting the trails again.

Back on the trails....back in the mud!

Thou shall not pass this stretch of path, water as far as the eye could see!

It's all worth it once you get to the top though, stunning views and one of my favourite spots on this run.

Back on the road on the way home and pass my favourite brewery....after the tough hilly trails, what I wouldn't have give for a pint of that!