Archive for Andy

The end is nigh…

It seems like yesterday that I myself was looking forward to a day off. Now it is Steve’s turn to bask in the glory of his huge achievement and join the still somewhat exclusive hall of fame :-)

Come and join us on Thursday 13th September, 18:30 at the Wellington Arch,  Hyde Park Corner
for a gentle three miles and a well deserved pint or two to celebrate Steve’s success!

See you there!

Day 1 – Today I ran 3 miles…

…I’m joking!

As James said typing the words ‘Miles to go: 1092’ ever again would not suit either of us! Been there, done that, once is enough to prove it’s possible by me.

It’s a shame to see Neil have to pull out on shin splints and echoing James’ words, I hope that Helen is ok. Better to have had a go guys, remember that.

All the best to you guys still going. Long way to go, but clearly it’s just not as easy as it sounds (and both James and I would agree!) so it will be a great achievement when you get to the end.

And yes, I’m joking, I’m definitely not kicking off another year. But I did truly run today…just so you know!


Today’s shoes: Silver and Yellow Kayano
Miles today: 8.68
Miles to go: 1092
Miles to date: 8.68 😉
“Besides the practical knowledge which defeat offers, there are important personality profits to be taken.
William Moulton Marston

Is there really an alternative to the Asics Kayano? Meet the Mizuno Wave Alchemy 10 and my long term test!

If you’re a long time Asics Kayano user like myself, it’s tempting to try and find an alternative that doesn’t require re-mortgaging every time you need a new pair. Damian told me recently that he was chatting to the staff in his local running store and mentioned I ran in the Kayano and they said it was effectively as close as a running shoe gets to being special shoes. Cheeky. They are the Rolls Royce of runners though.

Having discussed the conundrum of a suitable alternative to the Kayano with a wide range of sports shoe officionados, I had compiled the following list of possibilities…
Adidas Salvation 3
Mizuno Wave Alchemy 10
Saucony Pro Grid Omni 9
Stick with the Kayanos 😉

I have finally had the opportunity to try them all out.

I’ve previously bought a pair of the Sauconys and had found them lacking the support of the Kayano, so I’ve written them off as an alternative from personal experience. ‘Your mileage may vary’ as they say, but they didn’t work for me. My impression of them, ignoring the fact that the support structure wasn’t strong enough was that at £80, in comparison to the Kayano, you get what you pay for. They feel a little less sunbstantial and thinner in the tongue and forefoot area than the Kayanos do.

To ensure a level playing field with the remaining candidates, I started by setting the benchmark in a brand new pair of Kayano 17s. The store staff took a video me running on a treadmill with their gait analysis software, confirming the Kayano was a suitably supportive shoe for my running style and saved this video for comparison purposes.

Next up, the Adidas. The Salvations I tried were not the latest model. It appears that Adidas have completely redesigned the support structure for the fourth iteration of the Salvation and I was advised that if I needed strong support, stick with the 3. I did so. The video gait analysis revealed that the Salvation 3’s allow quite a lot of roll in of my ankles, particularly my right one and so we immediately wrote these off as an option too.

There was now nothing left but the Mizuno offering in the form of the Wave Alchemy 10. Initial impressions were of similar quality to the Saucony, one which is entirely resonable given their £85 price tag, in comparison to the £130 tag on the Kayano.

So, what did the video reveal? Well, we spent quite some time rolling the video back and forth to try and come to a consensus on whether the Mizuno or the Kayano were better suited to me! It really was difficult to tell the difference. I bought a pair and have now put about 80 miles on them.

What’s this Heel-Toe delta thing anyway?
Have a look at the image to the right here –>
I’ve done my best with the aid of paint(!) to show you what I mean by heel-toe delta. It’s essentially the drop in height between the heel and the toe when your foot is in the shoe. The Mizuno is considerably flatter in the sole than the Kayano and this means that you’re stretching your achilles and calf a bit more on the tail end of every stride.

Test results
I hadn’t noted that the heel-toe delta on the Mizuno shoe was so small in comparison when I was running on the treadmill. I noticed it was smaller, it felt different just standing in the shoes, but hadn’t realised how significant this would turn out to be. The Kayano has a steep heel-toe delta and I’ve been using them for about two years now (and over 2000 miles) so I’m very used to this aspect. After about four runs (mainly short three milers) I was really struggling with a range of pains including achilles tension which wasn’t good. I then added some heel gel support pads to the shoes (4mm ones seemed too high when I tried them, I ended up using 2mm inserts) and have been much more comfortable. I suspect that in the long term, the 4mm inserts will be better but that’s a test for another day.

At a retail price of £85, you may just find the Mizuno Wave Alchemy an appropriate alternative, offering the same level of cushioning and support, but at around 2/3rds the price of our beloved Kayano staple! Beware though, the heel-toe delta is as near as it gets to flat and this might leave you struggling as I did. Be prepared to try some heel inserts if you find you have problems. I’m able to use them, but I’ll still be buying Kayanos again next time I’m afraid.

Day 366 and beyond: 1095miles – The Aftermath and the cost of this obsession…

This is a long one. I make no apology whatsoever!

Part I: Thank you

Firstly, I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you to some special people, without whom this challenge would have fallen flat. There are so very many of you, here goes. Thank you to…

Those people closest to me, from whom this challenge has, at times, distracted my attention. You know who you are. I’d like to say it’ll get better from today, but there are bigger challenges ahead as you already know, and you know I can’t pass up a challenge. Thanks for your unending support, cheering, encouragement and of course putting up with my endless prattling on about running 😉

You are closely followed by my late Grandmother, who always told me I could, even if everyone else told me I couldn’t.

To those people who took on the challenge with me, at our regular Tuesday night run, to keep me from going insane with the boredom of running alone: David, Damian, Genevieve, Alex, James, Angela…the list goes on…

…and includes my upside down friends in Oz who completed the final fortnight with me, great people and huge supporters, Michelle and David with whom I have shared the joys of Sense holidays and the joys of running 😉 Thank you guys. Run well.

Next up, the Blackwater Valley Runners club and more specifically the following people who have inspired, encouraged and advised me over the last few months (and entertained my looooooong Sunday run requirements!): Dave, Alan, Nick, Paddy, Steve, Bill, Barry and of course Sandra. Thank you guys. I really appreciate it.

I’d like to specifically thank the following people that I have met through my running addiction and whom have kept a keen eye on the blog, namely: Keith, Aussie Alex, Gill, Neil and several of my colleagues.

Thanks go to my colleagues at work with whom I have spent time discussing the challenge, asking if what I propose to do is mad enough to be labelled ‘challenging’ and from whom I have received a great amount of support and encouragement.

To the holiday leaders and team from Sense, with whom I have run a good few miles, thank you for entertaining my requests for running friends and donning your gear to keep me going at each and every opportunity.

To Sense for supporting me throughout and for providing the wonderful Holidays program which drove me to take on this mad challenge (and become a better person for it!) I thank you greatly.

To the media for responding to my incessant requests for ‘airtime’ and actually giving me some to spread the word.

Make a donation using Virgin Money GivingNearly there…To everyone who has sponsored me, you know I appreciate it but I’ll say it again, thank you for supporting such a worthy cause.

To Gill for her poem and for the push onwards to the next ‘thing‘ in the saga that is my life.

And finally a great big 1095mile long thank you to James Ellis. Why specifically? Well allow me to explain… for being fool enough to do the challenge in the first place, inspiring others to follow suit, for finding me and seeing the possibility, being persistent enough to make me take it on, generous enough to let me make it my own, kind enough to support me throughout and keeping faith, and dedicated enough to ensure it lives on for another year (or is it three 1095mile years?). Thank you buddy.

There will no doubt be people that I have forgotten to mention here. I also have no doubt that I will have personally thanked you but I apologise for the omission anyway. Consider yourself thanked!

Part II: Things I have learned in the past year. AKA ‘On running and other things.’

There’s nothing quite like the buzz of a race. Really, nothing. They make great targets and milestones in a long year of running!
If you haven’t run before, start with a quarter mile and go home. Do a third of a mile a couple of days later. Within weeks you’ll be doing a handful of miles. Beyond that, the world is your oyster as they say 😉
Keep plugging away, no matter how far you can run now, it get’s better. Much better. Desire provides the drive.
Get yourself some well fitted (and gait analysed) shoes from your local running shop (and get some advice of which shop is good, all running shops were not created equal!)
Running isn’t quite as free as they’d like you to believe but it’s cheaper than many other sports. They make ‘technical’ running gear for a reason though, it works.
Pretty much anything is possible, given enough time and mileage. Get yourself a good training plan and stick to it. Your race is all in the (weeks of) preparation.
Find yourself a suitable running club, one that gives you what you need, be it motivation, fun or a regular hard run.
Don’t underestimate the value of days off (he says, on day 366 of consecutive days running!) they allow the body to recover!
A marathon is not two half marathons, it’s more like three and I mean it 😉

Part III: How do I feel?

This is a year I will never forget. That is for sure. I have so many fond memories of moments over the year. Thankfully they are immortalised in the blog pages and I don’t have to try and remember them all! I’ve come a long way in a year, as a runner and as a person. There will be something missing tomorrow, when I don’t run, or blog. I feel sad about that but it’s definitely time to let someone else have the limelight for a while 😉

Part IV – The highlights of my year…

Meeting Mo Farah was a special event, mostly because he’s such a lovely bloke and very down to earth.

Meeting James Ellis last July (sorry mate, you come second on account of not having the Gold or even the Silver medal!) as he’s a genuinely nice person and a good friend. And the mad man who convinced me to do this to myself 😉

Completing the Brighton marathon in sub 3:30, having only decided to do so that morning was a bit of a special moment and a great achievement in my running career 😉

Arriving last night, early, to meet Helen, who is lovely and then finding the group of runners just kept getting bigger and bigger. Thank you everyone, you made it a really special evening.

Running the Great North Run with “Day 363, nearly there” pinned to my back and having many many people pat me on the back and say “Only two more, well done!”

Hearing from James that we are actually quite well known in the blogging world, he was randomly recognised by someone from the Guardian who said “I love yours and Andy’s blog!” Excellent!

Joining the Blackwater Valley Runners and discovering they really are more about making running enjoyable than anything else. Lovely people with whom I enjoy spending time, and it makes me want to run too. Can’t be bad eh?

Taking my life in my hands and running up and down a dark high speed road on my Sense holiday. Not a great moment, but a moment I’ll never forget, for sure!

There’s one consistent ‘moment’ though. Every time I’ve run with somebody. I’ve run hundreds of miles on my own, that’s true, but I’ve also run a couple of hundred with other people, and they have been the best miles by far!

Part V – The cost of this obsession…

I’ve been writing a day 366 – ‘After the 1095miles year’ blog post along the lines of the credit card ‘Priceless’ adverts. Would you believe that I have covered 1700 miles, burnt 190,000 calories and ascended the equivalent of Everest…TWICE and a bit more? All to raise £1800 for charity. And to keep myself from getting bored 😉

…In the style of a well known credit card provider:

1 sprained ankle – priceless (and very painful)
100+ ibuprofen tablets – about three quid!
7 pairs of running shoes – £560
2 marathons – £96
3 half marathons – £117
1 running club membership – £25
6 10k’s – £153
240 hours on my feet – who knows!
230,000 heart beats!
18,500m elevation gained (or twice and a bit up Everest @8848m!)
190,000 calories (or 680 mars bars @ 50p) £340
1 copy of “Advanced Marathoning” – £10
Taking over my life for a year – Priceless

Oh, and I ran today, again. The Club run. Day 366? 😉 The difference? I ran out of choice rather than necessity and it felt good to do so.

The above “thank you” section has taken me about a fortnight to write, but was written well in advance of today to try and make sure I got everybody in. As of this evening, I have an extra couple of “thank you’s” to do. Firstly to Dave and the rest of the club for my honorary club shirt and medal to celebrate the completion of my year of running. It was a very kind gesture and I wish to thank you once again for it. And second, to Michelle and David for the package of TimTams (I didn’t have a clue what they were when Michelle mentioned them a few days back) so that I am now able to confirm, they are indeed superior in every way to the very British Penguin biscuit!
There have been a lot of you who have had a hand in my year of running, I hope to have acknowledged you all here. Thank you all again…

I don’t actually want a day off tomorrow, but I’m going to force myself…I’ll have to go some way yet to beat these guys anyway:
“The greatest average mileage run daily [over a year] is 61.87 km (38.44 miles) and was achieved by Tirtha Kumar Phani (India), from 30 June 2006 to 29 June 2007, in Calcutta, India. Tirtha Kumar Phani of Calcutta, India ran every day, running 22,581.09 km (14,031.15 miles) in total.”
And there is of course Dr. Ron Hill:
“Dr Ron Hill (b. 21 Sep 1938, UK), the 1969 European and 1970 Commonwealth marathon champion, has not missed a day’s training since 20 Dec 1964. His meticulously compiled training log shows a total of over 234,177 km (145,511 miles) from 3 Sep 1956 to 23 March 2005. He has completed 115 marathons, 114 of them sub 2 hr 52 min, and raced in 88 nations.”

Maybe next year eh? 😉

Speaking of which, keep an eye on over the next few days. It’s beginning to take shape!

I’ll leave you with a gallery to remind you of some of the interesting snaps from my 365 days of running.

Run well everyone…


Day 365 – I thought about how many preconceived prejudices would crumble when I trotted right along for…1095 miles ;-)

Left to Right – Molly, Gemma, David Steve, Me, Pauline, Helen, James, Jamie, Nick, Ben and James

Erm. That’s it. is it?

Well, no. There’s something interesting about today.

It’s been a long day. A very long day. Never one to let it lie, never one to leave the last little bit unfinished, I got up early and did a little running. 15.41 miles of it to be exact. Funny how that left me with just 3 miles to go to hit 1700. What a coincidence 😉

The morning run was terribly slow, terribly long and terribly hard work. The fatigue is evident, but hey, it’s the last day isn’t it! The evening run will be challenging, but there’s no rush.

The evening run was a brilliant experience. I would like to thank everyone who came to support me in my final run and to support Helen in her first. We really do appreciate it! It was truly a wonderful feeling to see so many familiar faces and so many new ones too.

It’s a bit of an odd day. I feel like I’m leaving a job after a long time working there, like I’m leaving something familiar behind me and heading out into the unknown. Help! It’s been a year of change, a year of challenge and a year of good times. Here’s to the next one…

Make a donation using Virgin Money GivingAndy.

Today’s shoes: Lime and Blue Kayano 17s (15.41) + Blue and White Kayano 17s (3.00)
Miles today: 15.41+3.00=18.41
Target: 1095
Miles to date: 1700.00!

“I thought about how many preconceived prejudices would crumble when I trotted right along for 26 miles.”
Bobbi Gibb

Day 364 – Falling short, right at the last hurdle…

I stayed in Darlington last night on account of having to be in the Darlington office this morning. My colleague James and I had planned a 7am run – I’d explained this was the penultimate day of my running year and so clearly a once in a lifetime opportunity for him 😉

I hadn’t factored in the few beers the night before, on top of the half marathon. I felt horrible this morning. Certainly one of my worst days for an early morning run, but it had to be done, for another couple of days anyway!

This morning my legs ached a lot. What keeps me going is knowing that the end is well and truly in sight. Tomorrow in fact. Wow.

It was cold, a bit wet and frankly not too pleasant as running goes. We headed off down the road in a direction I don’t profess to know, arriving at a roundabout upon which we struggled to find any other path than the one we had arrived on. Cue a U-turn and a bit of bumbling about to make sure we clocked up 3 miles. Thanks to James for joining me and I actually started to feel a bit better as we got going.

So, this is it then, 364 days, one more to go, I never thought I’d be here but I made it. Assuming nothing happens to me between now and 18:30 tomorrow, I have done it.

Those of you who have been keeping an eye on the mileage will notice the problem I am now faced with. My mileage over the last couple of weeks has sky-rocketed, but it hasn’t been enough to get me to 1700 miles. Short of nearly 20 miles tomorrow, I’m going to be a little shy of the crazy target I set just a fortnight ago. Shame.

Make a donation using Virgin Money GivingAndy.

Today’s shoes: Lime and Blue Kayano 17s
Miles today: 3.20
Target: 1092
Miles to date: 1681.59
“Life is short… running makes it seem longer.”
Baron Hansen

The End Draws Near!

So please join us for the final run of my year…

20th September 2011 – 18:30 – Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London

See you there!

Day 363 – Great North Run 2011 Race Report

This is my third effort at the Great North Run. A potted history follows…
2009 – Three weeks into my running career I ran 2h04m and promptly found I couldn’t walk for another three weeks
2010 – Better training got me a 1h59m just two days before I began the challenge
2011 – Well now, here’s the thing…

I woke up in pain. Genuinely. I don’t often wake up and think ‘bloody hell, that hurts’ but I did today (and yesterday for that matter). I didn’t feel good about the day at all. In fact I felt I was going to have to back down to a slower pace as the pain in my shins was bad enough just walking about the house barefoot, never mind pounding the streets!

I arrived incredibly early to the start, to meet a guy called Steve who is a radio journalist for BBC Radio 5 Live.

I’ll post the interview here for your amusement once I’ve found a way to do so…

It didn’t go amazingly. Myself and the ‘barefoot for the last mile’ guy running for CAFOD, alongside whom I’d been interviewed, both remarked afterward that we’d expected them to, as they told us they would, ask us about the charities we were supporting in the third section of our sound byte. I’m reliably informed that a combination of the preceding report on Welsh miners and the scoring of, erm, points(?) in some game called rugby impinged on our slot to plug the charities (the most important bit!) And made it a bit of a shambles. Never mind. I was never meant to be famous 😉

On the plus side, being interviewed with, and then bending the ear of the Bupa Physio gleaned some interesting advice on my ongoing issues with the inner shins. Thanks!

Given my early arrival, it seemed the right thing to do to take advantage of it and make my way to the tape, camp out and wait for everyone else to arrive 😉 This I duly did, having plenty of people to talk to along the way as it got busier. Cue a guy whom I later found out was called Neil, and whom I saw again around 4 miles in…

Mo Farah fired the gun. Nothing happened for a few seconds, then a sudden surge of the crowd carried me over the line and onto the road ahead.

This year I managed to be at the front. Having last year negotiated rows of ladies wearing fluffy pink decoration whilst holding hands and walking five abreast at the start of the event, I wasn’t making the same mistake again.

Off we went. At a rate. Mile 1: 6m21s. Waaaaaaaaaay too fast! I don’t want to be the bad workman and blame my tools, but this new fandangled Garmin 610 does have a terribly erratic pace measurement!

Slow down. Pace yourself Andy. It’s about the (semi) long game today…

Mile 2: 6m42s. Better.

Mile three and four passed. Both under 7 minutes, but only just.

Then I spotted Neil with whom I’d briefly spoken at the start. I tapped him on the shoulder and said that for someone who had coughed at a guy saying he was going for a 1h30 and said he was mad, Neil was really motoring along. He was well on for sub 1h30. Neil quickly explained that this is how half marathons are for him, the first few miles are good and fast and then the wheels fall off at about 8 miles!

We talked at length about his training, what we both do for a living, his family, his 3 year old boy and my silly running challenge (and the plan for the next year!) all of which I’d deliberately done to distract him. We’d kept the silly pace for another four or five miles and not really noticed. At 9 miles we were both feeling relatively ok. At ten, just about as good. At 11 I told him I was going to wind up the pace very slowly and gradually for the next couple of miles and he looked good to do the same. We shook hands, agreed to meet ‘on the other side’ of the finish line and wished each other luck. That’s the magic bit of running events. You spot someone who looks to be at your level, you talk, you both spur each other on. Brilliant. That’s what I like about running, the camaraderie is immense. My club runs do the same thing, more motivation and encouragement, very good for your running and for you. I stalled for another half mile and then just went for it.

I knew I’d break 1h30 by this point, but the question was by how far. I felt good, but tired. I knew I could keep a good pace but certainly not drop and insane sub 6 minute mile. I went all out.

I crossed the line in 1h28m49s.

Neil arrived 55 seconds later.

My half marathon PB until today was 1h36m. Pretty damn good.

But beaten hands down by Neil knocking just shy of 15 minutes off his PB! Well done mate. I knew you’d do it!

All in all, a very good day. A time worthy of being the final event of my challenge. The Great North Run is such an amazing event that you should get yourself in the ballot for next year and do it at least once in your life. Go on, you know you want to 😉

See you there next year… :-)

And finally, I’m reliably informed that I was beaten by a smurf. I thought they had short legs! 😉

I think today’s qotd has appeared before and is no more appropriate than today. If it has made a prior appearance, I make no apology, it’s fabulous!

Make a donation using Virgin Money GivingAndy.

Today’s shoes: Blue and White Kayano 17s
Miles today: 13.20
Target: 1089
Miles to date: 1678.40
“Jogging is very beneficial. It’s good for your legs and your feet. It’s also very good for the ground. It makes it feel needed.”
Charles Schulz

Day 362 – I hope this isn’t a sign of what tomorrow will be like…

…My legs are incredibly sore!

I felt like a broken old man today (some would say I am at times!) and stumbled three miles at one hell of a slow pace for me nowadays.

I sincerely hope this isn’t a sign of what’s to come tomorrow.

For those of you who happen to be up and about with the larks tomorrow morning, tune in to BBC Radio 5 Live to hear me be interviewed and no doubt make a fool of myself on national radio! James has offered one of his now famous pound bets that I can’t get the word ‘endurable’ into the conversation. Here goes…

To my fellow 53,999 runners tomorrow, the very best of luck. Say hi if you spot me and have a damn good time running up that big hill 😉

Make a donation using Virgin Money GivingAndy.

Today’s shoes: Blue and White Kayano 17s
Miles today: 3.04
Target: 1086
Miles to date: 1665.20
“Desire is the most important factor in the success of any athlete.”
Willie Shoemaker

Day 361 – Why don’t they tell you it’s all uphill?!?!?

When I first ran the Great North Run two years ago, I’d been running for a total of three weeks.

At this point I’d like to introduce you to a blog I discovered at the time (and have enjoyed ever since) the Great North Run in 2009. It’s called ‘Taking Jelly Babies from Strangers’ and I’m sure if you’ve ever run a distance event, I don’t need to explain the name! Anyway, have a look at the link here: I think it’s a fair assessment of the event and course!

Here is the actual elevation profile from my run in the 2010 edition… As you can see, it isn’t flat!

I ran the 2009 race (my first ever race) in 2h04m and then couldn’t walk for three weeks. I owe the rest of my running career to the technology that is gait analysis as it’s saved my ankles ever since!

For 2010 I was determined to break two hours and did. I ran 1h59m20s. I began the 1095miles challenge only two days later. Here we are, a few days from the end and how fitting the GNR is the final event I will run.

So onwards to Given the last week or so, and the uphill course I’m not expecting a blistering performance but I’d still like to have a go at attacking the 1h30m barrier. We’ll see what happens.

The bad news:
So, my amazing taper for the run on Sunday goes as follows… I’ve run about 100 miles in ten days now. Foolish. On Sunday I will not set the world alight with a great time, that’s for sure!

The good news:
I’m actually really looking forward to the event. It’s becoming one of my favourites. I was explaining to James at work yesterday that there’s little that compares, in anyone’s running career, to crossing the Tyne Bridge with 53,999 other runners as the Red Arrows fly over your head. Nothing really comes close to a moment like that. This year will be my third shot at the GNR and undoubtedly my best yet. Bring on Sunday!

Make a donation using Virgin Money GivingAndy.

Today’s shoes: Mizuno Wave Alchemy 10s
Miles today: 3.16
Target: 1083
Miles to date: 1662.16
“You can’t really be strong until you see a funny side to things.”
Ken Kesey