Advent Running 2016

Those of you that follow me on Instagram or Twitter will be aware that throughout December I have been taking part in Advent Running.

The AR #runforsprouts & #runfromsprouts tees 

Advent Running is the brainchild of James Poole & Claudia Schroegel; it’s a free and simple challenge that aims to keep people active throughout the busy month of December. The aim is to do 30 minutes of exercise each day whether that is running, swimming, cycling, yoga etc – it doesn’t matter. As I’m predominantly a runner I chose to run for 30 minutes every day, this is my second year taking part as I really enjoyed the run streak in 2015.

Running isn’t just for Christmas, James and Claudia lead runs and coach sessions throughout the whole year. They take a track session on Tuesday nights at Mile End Stadium, starting at 7pm. If running around in circles isn’t necessarily your thing you could join the group on a Thursday morning bright and early to run for bagels. They meet outside Beigel Bake on Brick Lane at 6.45am for a 10kish run around London, taking in the sunrise and city sights. If that wasn’t enough, you can get your long run in with AR, generally a lot of the group train for marathons and so they share the miles together on a Sunday. They meet at 10:30 in the London Marathon Store.

Claudia leading the group over Millenium bridge on the Christmas jumper bagel run

As well as continuing their normal running schedule/structure James, Claudia & the AR elves put on some extra special events in December.


DJ JP (photo courtesy of Michael Koball)

There is always a big launch party, escape the city trail runs, run for pizza events and they put a festive spin on the track sessions (#TrackCheeseday) and the bagel run (run in Christmas jumpers, run for trees etc).

Obligatory jazz hands…

 … and jumps! 

These events definitely help me get in the festive spirit, normally I only really feel like it’s Christmas on the day and that’s it. The run streak gets me into a good routine and makes me realise how you can get miles in around work etc. 

This year’s Advent Running has been a little different to 2015 due to the formation of Adidas Runners. They put on sessions on Monday evenings (normally 6:30pm at London Bridge with James, Noel & Olivia) and Friday mornings (normally 7am at Workshop Coffee with JP & Claudi). Due to it being the off season and there being lots of promotional activities in London, Adidas have been able to invite special guests along to many of the sessions. This has included the likes of Tom Daley, Jo Pavey, The Brownlee Brothers and Jessica Ennis-Hill. I have been incredibly fortunate to get places for a few of the events; this has meant I’ve been able to chase Jonny Brownlee in a Friday morning Fartlek session and learn some drills from Jessica Ennis-Hill at Battersea Track. 

Due to working for Run-Fast/at The Running Works I was also really lucky to have a great chat with Jo Pavey over brunch in The Secret Frog Coffee Shop. She’s incredibly inspiring and ridiculously humble.

The Run-Fast/The Running Works Team and Jo Pavey

Those of us taking part in the Advent Running streak are on the home stretch, it’s these last couple of days that are the most challenging but I hope everyone can get their 30 minutes in. Advent Running is one of the biggest reasons I decide to run on Christmas Day. I recently wrote a blog for Iffley Road about “the virtues of the Christmas Day run” you can read it here: I apologise for writing this blog now if you’re only just finding out about Advent Running, there’s always next year I guess and I’m sure it’ll be even bigger and better (if that’s possible) than ever. If you’re reading this James & Claudi, thank you for thinking of and organising such a great initiative. I’m glad you’re sharing your passion for running with everyone and it’s great to see so many people getting involved.

Good luck for the rest of the run streak everyone and I hope more people will get involved next year.

Happy Christmas!


The Uncommon Thread 

Since The Running Works began stocking Stance a fair few months ago they have become my favourite socks. I used to choose between a variety of sock brands depending on what type of running I was doing, which trainers I was going to wear and what the weather was like. I choose to wear Stance now because I find them super comfortable. This is due to the fact they feature a breathable performance mesh, lightweight terry select cushioning, left/right engineered arch support and are reinforced in the toe and heel.I have run in Stance socks for so many months now and have never had any issues. I put this down to the moisture wicking fibres that keep your feet cool and dry. They’re also really durable, I believe this is because they have a 200 needle count stitching and are well padded in the toe and heel. When one of the Stance reps came into work to show us the product he explained that if you put the sock into a foot shape it will stay in that position. This showed that the socks will hold their shape well even after being through the wash a large number of times, there aren’t many socks that do that.

The Fusion Run range of socks is vast and therefore you can find a sock suitable for each run. If I’m hitting the trails I’ll opt for some OTC (over the calf) whereas if I’m heading to run around in circles aka track I’ll put on lightweight tabs. When I’m road running I’ll wear the Crew height, mainly because they are comfortable and due to the massive range of styles/colours they look good. Due to having lots of styles of Stance socks, I have been alternating them and pairing them with various trainers. James Poole and Claudia Schroegel (the founders of Advent Running) and I came up with #STANCEOFF for us to share our favorite sock and trainer combinations on Twitter & Instagram. It has been fun to see everyone’s choices and styles, including the likes of Anton Krupicka & Rickey Gates.

Here’s a few of my #STANCEOFF combinations:

With Christmas just around the corner I am teaming up with Stance and Freestak to gift someone a pair of lifestyle socks and someone a pair of running socks. All you have to do to enter is:

Take an artistic photo (if it’s festive even better) of where you run

Tag @StephenSkinner6
& hashtag: #StanceRun #Stance #StanceSocks #Stancemas #GiftStance on Twitter and/or Instagram

I will be choosing the winners on 18/12/16
Good luck!

2017 races, goals and adventures 

Now that I have run my last serious race of 2016 it’s time to start looking forward to 2017, set some goals and plan races and adventures. This year I managed to achieve some big goals, for example going sub 1:15 in the Cardiff Half Marathon and getting to run the London Marathon. Similarly to 2015 once I had achieved certain goals I failed to set new targets for the second half of the year. Despite that I ran some great races and was happy with my times.

My PBs I will be looking to better in 2017 are:

1 mile: 4:43 (City of London Mile 2016)

5k: 16:31 (Run Through Battersea Park 5k 2015)

10k: 34:50 (Orion Harriers Fast Friday 2016)

Half Marathon: 1:13:22 (Cardiff Half 2016)

Marathon: 2:54:08 (London Marathon 2016)

I always find it hard to set new goals but I think the big one for me in 2017 has to be the Marathon. I was hoping to go closer to 2:45 in the London Marathon this year but I couldn’t quite hold the pace in the last few kilometres. Due to Boston including heartbreak hill I may have to look for a flatter quicker Marathon in the second half of the year to improve my time considerably. However I’m going to be prioritising track, tempos, hills and the long run in training for Boston and I will see how it goes. Here’s a list of the races I’ve got lined up so far and my aims:

Brighton Half Marathon – 26/02/17 – 1:13

Essex 20 – 05/03/17 – improve on 2:03 from 2016

Colchester Half – 12/03/17 – beat 1:16 from 2016

Boston Marathon – 17/04/17 – 2:45-2:50

Night of the 10,000m PBs – 20/05/17 – sub 34 minutes

City of London Mile – ? – 4:35

I’m really looking forward to the races I have lined up. As well as the ones mentioned above I am going to take part in a couple of XC races in January to build some strength. I’m always on the look out for more races so if there are any you’d recommend drop me a message on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram etc. Also let me know what races and adventures you have planned.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be carrying on with the Advent Running run streak and may take part in the odd parkrun/Santa run to keep me entertained until the new year.

See a lot of you soon


The Christmas 5ks 

On Saturday the 10th of December I took part in the Christmas 5ks at Battersea Athletics Track. The event was organised by the Clapham Chasers. Since the Fast Friday 10k track race I took part in early this year I have been on the look out for more track events. I’d mentioned this to Sam Cornforth (runs at track on a Tuesday night and works at Runners Need) and a week or so ago he let me know about The Christmas 5ks. I didn’t sign up straight away just in case other races/events popped up (I get pretty bad FOMO!) but as the day neared the calendar was still free so I registered. 

It had been a little while since I’d raced the 5k distance (apart from the odd parkrun) so I was looking forward to pushing the pace and seeing what time I could manage. Having only just got over the lurgy/a cold I wasn’t too sure how I would feel trying to run quickly so I calculated what paces I’d need to run for various times. The times I had in mind were:

a) 16:30 – 3:18 min/km

b) 17:00 – 3:24 min/km

c) 17:30 – 3:30

As I had been taking part in Advent Running my legs felt quite tight in the week before the race. I think this is mainly because I took part in a shorter track session (including drills) on Monday. Taking this in to consideration I thought I would probably be capable of between 17-17:30 but if they did loosen up and feel good I would try to get as close as possible to my 16:31 PB. 

I ran 4K to the track to warm up and got there in plenty of time to pick up my race number and watch some of the other races. 

I chatted with a couple of other runners and bumped into Joe Spraggins (Clapham Chaser, we met at the Olympic Park Mo Santa thingy last year). We had a good catch up, discussed our goal times for the race and jogged a couple of laps. 

I headed to the start area and did a couple of strides just before the 11 o’clock start. The event was really well organised, there was a special area coned off for us to warm up in. We were all called to the start line where we discussed what our goal times were and what paces we’d have to run. The pacer in our race was for 17 minutes. Initially I was thinking to aim for 17:30 and then up it if I felt good but due to there being a pacer I decided on the start line to follow him and see if could hold on. 

After waiting for the last two runners to join us we were sent on our way. Straight from the off there was a group of four or five of us tucked in behind the pacer. I positioned myself at the back of the pack initially as I didn’t want to have to take a wide line and clock more distance than required. It took a couple of laps for me to find my stride but the legs soon loosened up and I was feeling comfortable running around 3:25min/km pace. I was focussing on keeping close behind the pacer, as the group thinned out a little I passed one or two runners to make this easier. 

At the halfway point the group had shrunk. One of the runners dropped out and two or three others had eased up. There was three of us still on the tail of the pacer, sub 17 minutes was still in our sights. The laps went by really quickly, I guess only having the Fast Friday 10k to compare to it would feel quick. The legs were starting to tighten but there was only a few more laps to go. With 2k left I picked up the pace a little to get alongside and eventually pass the other two sub 17 hopefuls. Before I knew it we were into the last kilometre, I surged again. Due to some decent pacing I had some energy for a sprint finish to cross the line ahead of the other two runners in 16:49. Mission accomplished. 

Here are the stats/splits:

I really enjoyed the race, it was just what I needed to assure myself I still have some speed in the legs despite small mileage over the last few months. Racing with quicker runners is always great too, I feel as though I have picked up some much needed motivation. I will definitely try to race over 5k and 10k more in the new year. 

Joe crossed the line sub 17:30 which was bang on his plan. Well done mate, cracking run! He is going to be training for two Ironman triathlons next year, good luck with that. After my effort I watched the final race with Calum, Scott & Ben (Run Fast cheer crew). This race included a fellow Run Fast member, Davide. 

He ran well and finish in 16:30ish in what is only his third proper race back from injury. Well done mate! 

I hope those of you that have/are racing or training this weekend run well and enjoy it. 

See a lot of you soon