Tag Archives: discover

Salomon Sunset Series – Box Hill, London

On Saturday the 24th of June I took part in the Salomon Sunset Series London 10k. I always keep an eye on Salomon Running on social media because their kit is great, they create some awesome videos and sponsor many of the best trail/ultra-runners. When they announced they were organising the Sunset Series a few months back I was really keen to get involved because I’d never ran around Box Hill, I knew some friends would be taking part and with OCC coming up I need to get some hills in. I was lucky enough to be offered a free place as I have reviewed some Salomon shoes in the past and I’ve recently been selected to take part in the Suunto Training Squad.

I was really looking forward to the event but knew that it would be a big challenge as I took part in the Orion Fell Race in Epping Forest on Friday night. The 5k included 900+ft elevation gain. I finished 7th in 22:20 knocking 48 seconds off the time I ran in 2015, my legs were not happy. During the day Lorna and I travelled east to have lunch with friends. It was nice to catch up with Ben and Maz and meet Will, Hayley and baby Jackson. Late afternoon I started my journey across London to Box Hill. I bumped into Mollie and Frankie on the train, it was good to have a catch up and speculate how tough the event would be.

We arrived at Box Hill an hour or so before the start meaning we could have a good chat with some of the Advent Running/Adidas Running lot, sort our race kit and drop bags. Throughout the afternoon Salomon had been putting on trail workshops and Q&As, it was cool to hear from Max Nicholls about his training, racing and goals. To loosen my legs up a bit I did a few strides before listening to the briefing and positioning myself near the front in the start pen. Knowing the 10k course included 250m+ of elevation gain I took it relatively steady off the line; I wanted to keep the lead pack in view but was confident that I would be able to move through the field once we got to the hills.

Having not taken part in many trail races recently I was excited to tackle the challenging course and I enjoyed the fact I didn’t need to look at my watch as I wasn’t aiming for a time.

Photo courtesy of @claudi8s

After 2k of running on the flat I arrived at the first hill, we gained 60m in 500m then from 3k to 3.7k we ran up another 100m. Thanks to the OH Fell Race my legs were tired but strong at the same time; I managed to overtake quite a few runners on the first couple of hills and was feeling good and enjoying the descents. From 7k to 8.5k there was a really nice smooth downhill section where I let my legs go. With more than a kilometre to go though I knew there would be another sizeable climb. There was a U-turn at the bottom of the hill to pretty much go straight back up again.

The final big hill was really demoralising as it was open, you could see the brow of the hill from the bottom and couldn’t help but long to be at the top with the click of your fingers. I could see two runners up in front and used them as motivation; with some words of encouragement from JP who was descending parallel to me I got my head down and refused to slow to a walk.

Iffley Road Cambrian River T-Shirt, Iffley Road Thompson Shorts, Stance Run OTC, Salomon S-Lab X-Series

Once at the top of the climb the last 500m or so was pretty flat. I crossed the line in 45:04, surprisingly in 3rd position.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1052324835/overview

Photo courtesy of @claudi8s

Overall the race was a lot of fun; I definitely need to run more trail races. After grabbing my wooden coaster, bottle of water and clif bar we cheered in the rest of the runners.

In the next few months I am going to try and make it a priority to run more trails and venture further out of London.

If you haven’t given trail running a try I would definitely recommend one of the Salomon Sunset events, fingers crossed they’ll be around next year and more people will get involved.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

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: https://www.iffleyroad.com/blogs/journal/the-virtues-of-the-christmas-day-run. 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!

Steve

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

Steve 

The North Face Zagori Marathon 2016

On Saturday the 23rd of July Lorna and I took part in the Zagori Marathon. We signed up a few months back and the initial plan was to run it with Michalis and Freya. The main reason we signed up was because Michalis is Greek and could show us around but unfortunately due to injuries etc neither of them could make it. Having paid for the race, accommodation and flights Lorna and I still made the trip. We travelled to Athens on the Wednesday before the race and spent a day and a bit there before heading north to Aristi, near to where the race started.It was my first trip to Greece so I didn’t really know what to expect. We arrived on the Wednesday afternoon and headed straight to the pool on the roof of our hotel for a spot of swimming and sunbathing.

The weather was awesome, roughly 30 degrees, I may have burnt a little. In the evening we went to a restaurant, recommended by Michalis, just down the road from our hotel. The food was amazing; we had Greek salad, lots of bread with tzatziki and Souvlaki. The wine wasn’t quite up to standard but it was really cheap so we couldn’t complain really.

On the Thursday morning we went for an exploratory 10k of Athens. Michalis had sent us over a route to follow so that we could take in some of the ruins and run passed the Acropolis Museum etc.

We started our run at around 9am and already it was baking hot. We kept it nice and steady bearing in mind we had a mountain marathon in two days time. After the run we rehydrated and found a nice little bakery near our hotel that sold massive ice creams. We returned to that bakery a fair few times throughout our stay. In the afternoon we chilled by the pool, it was so nice to just relax and not have to do anything. We went for an amazing meal in the evening at Orizontes which is situated at the top of Lycabettus Hill. The hill is the highest peak of Athens which overlooks the capital from 277 meters. This was one of my personal highlights of the trip; we had great food and wine and then watched the beautiful sunset.


After a nice couple of days in Athens the time had come to head up North. We got a taxi to the bus station and then boarded a bus for the 8 hour trip to Ioannina. Once we arrived in Ioannina we were picked up by a taxi arranged by Michalis, we were driven to fifth element to collect our race packs before being taken to Aristi Mountain Resort where we would stay for the weekend. The resort was amazing; the views of the mountains were awesome.

We carb-loaded up before getting an early night as we had to be up around 5 o’clock to get organised and get a taxi to the start.

Our taxi arrived at 5:30am to take us to the race; luckily it was only a half an hour drive to the start, in the village of Kipoi (750m altitude), as the race started at 6:30am. We took a few pre-race photos, dropped our bags off and before we knew it the race began.

Being a mountain marathon there wasn’t the sprint start of a shorter distance race but some of the elite guys took off pretty sharpish. The first 700m or so of the race was on road, luckily I wore my Salomon X-series which have good grip for trail but due to not having any real lugs they are also good on road. Then we ran over a three arched bridge called Kalogeriko entering a well preserved path. Within the first couple of kilometres we went over a couple of stone bridges, the runners at this point were still pretty bunched together. Having not done much research into the route both Lorna and I were surprised at how rocky and technical the terrain was. We followed the river bank for about 2km before running inside the gorge, we found ourselves clambering over massive rocks/boulders. Despite the challenging route we were making good time and knew we’d make the cut off time of 4.5 hours for halfway.

 We passed through a couple of refreshment stations, one at about 7k and another around 11k. The next station was at 17.5km in the Voidomatis springs. This was where the intense uphill for about 10 kilometres started. Papigo was the site for the halfway point and aid station number 4. Lorna and I had made it to halfway in roughly 3 hours. It was a relief to get there in good time and have the opportunity to fuel up; there were crisps, cake and boiled potato etc. Having looked at the elevation profile a fair amount we knew the hard work was ahead of us.

The uphill was pretty brutal, it was still incredibly rocky. In hindsight prior to the race we should have hit the trails more often and prioritised hill sessions, however we were managing. The poles were coming in handy and Lorna felt more stable using them. Every now and then we had to just take some time to look around and enjoy being in the mountains, the scenery was spectacular.

None of the photos really do it justice. We continued climbing up until around 28k where there was a short sharp downhill section. This proved challenging as it was so steep and the ground was sliding away from beneath us, we had to put the brakes on. After the downhill section there was a little more climbing to do before a sustained period of running downhill. With the course profile in mind I knew where the ascending and descending was, the only thing I didn’t know was that not an awful lot of the downhill section were runnable (for us anyway). The 80km and marathon routes overlap so we saw some of the ultra-athletes flying down the side of the mountain. It was awe-inspiring to see them running with such balance and quick feet.

After the 6th refreshment station at around 31k things were pretty slow going, we were tired from all the climbing. We were running for what must’ve been close to two hours before reaching another aid station. Lorna asked one of the photographers on the route how far we had left to run and he replied “6 or 7k” we couldn’t quite believe it. We finally made it to Avgerinos and the 7th aid station; this was 37.7k into the race. Having done the first half marathon in 3 hours we couldn’t believe we were going to be pushing it to finish in the cut off time of 9 hours, especially with so many other runners behind us. We started to question whether we would even get a medal or anyone would be there at the finish. The pace picked up a little but a considerable amount of time had passed and the finish line was still not to be seen. On the horizon we could see a small marquee with a few people outside, we’d been running for ages since the last checkpoint and thought we must be approaching the finish but no it was another aid station. We were both thinking “this has to say 40k+, we haven’t just run only over a kilometre”. To our amazement it said 39k. It goes to show you can’t underestimate the terrain in trail races; kilometres can take a seriously long time. We shot off from the aid station in a bid to make the cut off time.

The first kilometre or so from the aid station was ok; we could hold a decent pace. Then came a section where we had to zig zag down the side of a hill. At this point we could hear and see the crowds at the finish line in the distance; Lorna and I were trying to predict how far away it was and how long it would take to run there. The final kilometre was pretty flat through a town on the road; this gave us chance to pick up the pace. We made it onto the red carpet/finish straight and could muster a sprint finish. Luckily we had made it across the line in 8 hours and 45 minutes. It was such a relief, we received are medals and then grabbed a drink to rehydrate.

It was such a long day running through the mountains but what a day! It was such a brutal but beautiful route, one I hope to tackle again in the future.

After the race Lorna and I had a few days in Aristi and Sivota to relax. We went rafting and chilled with Fred the Flamingo on the beach.


 On a whole the trip was amazing; it was nice to spend time in Athens, explore the mountains and then chill by the sea. A massive thankyou has to go to Michalis for helping me and Lorna get organised and travel around Greece.I’m already thinking about the possibility of doing the marathon again or even the 80k. Athens Marathon will also have to be done at some point soon.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Stance European Street Art Tour – London

As I work in The Running Works (http://run-fast-retail.net/) I was lucky enough to be invited to the first part of the Stance European Street Art Tour in London a couple of months ago. Stance is an American sock and underwear brand. They produce all kinds of socks, ranging from casual everyday socks to technical socks for professional athletes competing in the NBA and MLB to name just a few.

Over the last few months we have been selling the technical running socks in store. I have to admit before the tech rep/s came in to the store to let us know about the product I hadn’t heard of Stance. My manager and the reps let me know that they are massive in the states especially as they are the official sock of the NBA and MLB. As members of staff we were given a pair to try out. Initially I was thinking “Oh it’s just another sock, it’ll just be pretty comfortable as they all are”. Prior to wearing Stance I wore lots of different running socks. I would make a day to day decision based on what trainers I was going to wear and what the weather was like, I’d alternate between Balega, X-socks, Hilly and Adidas. Now I generally always opt for Stance. The reason being they are super comfortable due to the 200 needle count and they have a reinforced heel and toe so they hold their shape really well. This was demonstrated to me by one of the reps, if you put the sock into a foot shape it will stay in that position. There aren’t many socks that will do that. They also come in a variety of heights (tab, crew, OTC) so you can choose which you prefer depending on what run your about to head out on, for instance if I’m going to do some trail running I’ll put on the OTC to save my legs from being scratched and to provide some compression.

Another big selling point for Stance is that they look good. There is a wide variety of Fusion Run socks available (https://www.stance.com/shop/men/performance/run) so depending on what trainers you wear there will always be a pair to match them up with. Having a large (read massive) collection of running trainers it has been fun in recent months to play around with different sock/trainer combos.  

James, Claudia (Advent Running founders and Adidas Runners captains) and I coined the phrase #STANCEOFF a while back and have been sharing our favourite sock and trainer combos on Twitter & Instagram, just search the hashtag and get involved. It has been funny to see the likes of Anton Krupicka & Rickey Gates sharing their Stance sock pics with the hashtag too.

Right where was I, oh yeh the Stance European Street Art Tour. When I received the invite I was excited because I knew that they would organise a cool, fun event. It was definitely that. I arrived at the venue, which was a basement in East London, after work around 6pm. I’d sprinted up from the office to make it in time as it was a pretty early start.  

On arrival there were displays showcasing some of the Stance collection and there were a lot of blank rectangular cardboard boxes stacked on the back wall. I had a look around the venue, checked out what socks and goodies I’d been given in a tote bag and dropped off my bag so that I was ready to run. Having been on a street art tour (organised by Freestak/Like the Wind mag) before I was looking forward to it. It was a really nice evening to be exploring East London.  

 We convened outside for a group photo and then we were led off by our tour guide.  

    
There was a pretty big group of us running, it was good to catch up with Claudia and James, Mollie (PT Mollie) and have a good chat with Kieran Alger (ManVMiles).   
The tour took in a lot of street art including works by Banksy, Eine, ROA and Stik etc. 
   When we arrived back to base we realised that the blank rectangular boxes were actually a canvas for a graffiti artist to create a work of art on.  

We watched him working his magic for a bit but then pizza arrived, pizza is always a big priority. Another cool thing Stance put on was you could have a photo taken and it could be printed onto the side of a bottle of beer, clever! Most people stuck around for a while to enjoy the DJ set, eat food, drink beer and chat about running basically. 

As the event was coming to a close Simon, Julie, Lenka and Alex (all of Freestak/Like the Wind) dismantled the wall of cardboard boxes and handed one out to each of us. 

We were all given a piece of art to take away with us which was a nice touch. Overall it was a great event! Here is a link to a video of the evening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oeeKPKurVg

If you want to find out more about Stance follow them @Stance & @StanceRun #theuncommonthread

See a lot of you soon

Steve

P.s. Stance even do socks with cactus with sunglasses on  

 P.p.s. Excuse the pasty white legs!

Trail running in the Black Forest

This post is a little overdue but I’ve wanted to write about my trip to the Black Forest for a while. Bart was chief organiser having done the trip for a few years with friends. Prior to Lorna, Emily and my arrival they took part in the champagne half marathon dressed as Bogans and had done a few big mileage days through the forest, it sounded like a great laugh and the pics are hilarious.
Lorna, Emily and I flew out on Wednesday the 1st of June. With trail marathons/ultras lined up we were all looking forward to some long days trail running. On the Thursday we ran from Vohrenbach to Titisee, it totalled 21km roughly and didn’t include much climbing so it was a nice steady first day.  

  

  

Once we arrived in Titisee Lorna, Emily and I had a bit of spare time so we grabbed a coffee and then decided to round the run up to 25km by running around the lake. 

In the evening we had a few beers and some great food, I had to have Black Forest Gateaux at the first opportunity! 
 The route we were following was the Westweg trail. Bart had given us maps and a description of the route broken up into sections. On the second day we ran from Titisee to Wiedener Eck via Feldsee and Feldberg (the highest point in the Black Forest at 1,493 metres).  

Unfortunately for us the weather was pretty rubbish so the views were very similar to staring at a white piece of paper. Luckily though Bart showed us pictures on his phone from the year before when the weather was perfect, it would’ve been amazing! Oh yeh I almost forgot, we stopped for lunch in a really cosy cabin on the Friday. Because it had been cold and wet on the top of Feldberg most of us had a hot chocolate with cream to warm up, it was the best thing ever. Actually maybe the sauna and pool at the hotel was the best thing ever! Ha I really enjoyed the second day despite the poor weather. We covered 35k and had done a fair amount of climbing and some of the views were awesome.  

  


 Also in the afternoon there was a lot of running downhill and there were times when Bart and I could speed on.

On Saturday we travelled another 35k. We went from Wiedener Eck to Kandern. The whole trip was really well organised and it’s so good that the German Tourist Board take your luggage from hotel to hotel so all you have to worry about is your running bag. There was a fair amount of uphill in the first half of the day and after covering a decent amount of mileage the previous two days it took us a fair while to get to 10k or so. 

It was good that the distances between hotels weren’t too big and we could take our time and not worry about it. If we had wanted to increase our mileage it would’ve been really easy to do. On our way to Kandern we passed through a start/finish gantry for a race. It was a race 11k in distance with 1,000m of elevation gain, sounded “fun”!

The food we had all week was amazing; for the most part it was locally sourced. It’s one of the main reasons I want to go back in the next couple of years and run a larger section if not the entire Westweg trail (285km). One of the standout meals was in a really nice restaurant in Kandern. I opted for the duck with an orange sauce; it was probably one of the best meals I’ve eaten (good suggestion Bart).

On our final day in the Black Forest Lorna, Emily, Bart and I opted for a 5k walk to a little village near Kandern. We thought it would be a good way to shake our legs out and we stopped off for a drink. The whole trip flew by, ideally we would’ve been there longer and spent more time out on the trails each day. There’s always next year I guess.

See a lot of you soon

Steve