Tag Archives: stance

Great Bentley Half Marathon 2020

On Sunday 2nd February I took part in the Great Bentley Half Marathon for the first time. Lorna and I signed up to the race because her brother Alex had enjoyed it in 2019 achieving a personal best. As the race is local to Colchester, where Lorna’s parents live, it was easy to get to and we thought it would be good timing ahead of the Barcelona Marathon on the 15th of March.

I travelled back to Colchester on Saturday evening after work. We carb loaded on pizza and chips and put our feet up watching a film before getting an early night. Having not raced for a while I was really looking forward to it. Over the last few months I have been following a training plan as part of the Fast Running “Performance Project Spring 2020”. The plan is put together by Tom Craggs and Robbie Britton and so far has included quite a lot of fartlek, lactate threshold/tempo and easy long runs. I have definitely started to realise the benefits of running at closer to 5k/10k pace more regularly and subsequently the easier slower runs are feeling more comfortable week on week.

Leading into the race I was looking forward to seeing what sort of shape I was in. However I was also aware that the following weeks training included some tough sessions that would be a struggle if I emptied the tank in the race. I decided I was going to run at around goal marathon pace and practice my nutrition strategy.

Obligatory kit pic

Arriving at the Village Hall I felt good, I’d slept well and my legs were feeling relatively fresh having rested on Saturday. Number pick up and bag drop was straightforward and then I ran an easy 2k with Alex to get the legs moving. It felt like the race start came around really quickly. I think I was quite relaxed because I wasn’t aiming for a PB. We listened to the quick race briefing while positioning ourselves on the start line and then we were off as the clock struck 10:30am.

Everyone bolted from the line but I tried to hold myself back and settle into a rhythm around goal marathon pace. I was aiming for around 4 min/km pace but my first few kilometres were closer to 3:50. The course was really flat so I felt comfortable holding that pace for the first 6k or so. I tried to resist the temptation to race but with my legs feeling good I decided to push on and see what time I could do. In the car on the way to the race Lorna predicted this would happen!

At the half waypoint I picked up the pace nearer to 3:25 min/km for the next 5k. I thought if I could hold that pace for a while I could get closer to a finishing time around 75 minutes. As I reached 10 miles a lot of the course was taking us into a headwind. Due to my “alternative” pacing I was moving through the field but was running a lot of the race on my own.

I caught up with a little group and decided to ease up and tuck in with them for a couple of kilometres. As I was tiring, before every corner I was thinking, “please let the wind be behind us when we get round there” but unfortunately the majority of the last 5/10k was into the wind.

Having battled the wind I knew early on I wasn’t going to get that close to 75 minutes but in the conditions I was happy to cross the line in 1:16:19 in 12th position. On one hand I was thinking “these sessions in the week are going to be brutal” but on the other hand I thought, “I guess I’m in decent shape at this point in marathon training and once I recover I’ll feel stronger”. I was excited to see how Lorna, Alex, Rob, Smithy and Frosty had got on. Lorna’s dad and sister made it to the finish to cheer everyone on; we stood on the village green along the finishing straight which was uphill, on grass and into wind… just what you need at the end of a gruelling half marathon. Despite the tough conditions everyone ran really well and were pleased with their times.

Overall the Great Bentley Half was an excellent race. It was really well organised and is a quick course, I guess that’s why it’s so popular with all the local clubs. If you want to take part you’ll have to sign up as soon as registration opens, it fills up quick! I hope to take part again next year.

As marathon training ramps up over the next few weeks the key will be staying consistent and prioritising the sessions and long runs. Some of us are taking part in the Cancer Research London Winter Run on Sunday, which should be fun. Fingers crossed it wont be too windy!

Hope your training and racing is going well.


Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon 2017

On Sunday the 19th of March I took part in the Hampton Court Palace Half. I signed up because Lorna, her sister Rachel, Marie (Lorna’s manager) and her husband Quentin had decided to run. As the race was organised by Run Through I knew it would be good, I was looking forward to running along the river and finishing just outside Hampton Court Palace. I didn’t really have a race plan as I knew my legs would be tired from the Escape to trail run, organised by Dean, on Saturday.

Despite the trail run I thought it would be good training to see how quickly I could get round. At the end of the day in Boston I will no doubt get to a point where my legs are feeling heavy and need to try and hold on to a decent pace.
We woke up at around 6am on Sunday morning so we could enjoy breakfast and get organised. Furthermore, we wanted to leave ours at 7am to make it to the palace in good time to park the car and walk to the race village. Lorna and Rachel were excited to see what time they could achieve. Rachel hadn’t raced since the London Marathon 14 years ago but had increased her mileage well over the few months before the race so we were all pretty confident she would run well. Ideally she wanted to beat Phil’s time of 1:43 from Colchester Half the previous weekend. We bumped into Tom (@tom.runs) and had a catch up before dropping our bags off. I headed to the start line and had a quick chat with Joe while we positioned ourselves near the front.

Off the start I went out pretty quickly, I was through the first kilometre in around 3:35 (75 minute pace) alongside Joe and a handful of others. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold that pace for long but decided to go with it and see what happened. I stayed with the group for a couple of kilometres but then I started to open up a little gap, first place was no longer visible but I could still just about see second place. I decided I was going to try and stay in third place and keep him in view for as long as possible. My legs were already feeling pretty heavy and tight from around 5k but I could still hold a decent pace, I was around 3:40-3:45 pace at this point. I knew it was going to be a long 16k but I wanted to have to dig deep and test the legs.

As I was on my own it was tough going especially running into the wind along the river. I didn’t turn around at all to see if I was being caught but when running past big crowds I could hear how close the runners were behind me. The support along the river was great.

Going from running on concrete to running on the towpath my legs were not happy especially having been on my feet for 4 hours, running 27k the previous day. I was relieved to make it to within 5k from the finish line and knew I could suffer for just less than 20 minutes to get it done. The final few kilometres were into the wind, which wasn’t great, but I just couldn’t wait to see the finish line and the palace. With 800m or so to go someone let me know there was a runner about 30m or so behind me, I upped my pace a bit to make sure no one was going to overtake me and then I was on the home straight. I crossed the line in 1:18:55 in 3rd, job done.

I cheered Tom, Hanif, Lorna, Rachel, Marie & Quentin through the finish. Lorna and Rachel smashed it finishing in 1:42 to beat Phil’s time. We went for a nice roast and then chilled for the rest of the day.

Overall it was a great day, if you’re looking for a quick scenic half next year I’d definitely recommend considering the Palace Half. The route was scenic and relatively flat, the crowds were good and the medal was cool (as to be expected from a Run Through event).

After racing the last four weekends in a row I’m looking forward to doing a steady long run at the weekend before tapering ahead of the Boston Marathon. I hope those of you that raced or had long training runs at the weekend enjoyed it and got the results/times you wanted. I love this time of year when everyone is racing and training hard. It’s inspiring to see so many great performances every weekend.

See a lot of you soon.


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!

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


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

 P.p.s. Excuse the pasty white legs!

Trailscape Marathon – Ashurst, South

On Saturday 23rd January I took part in the trailscape South marathon in Ashurst. Having done the previous two marathons in the series I was looking forward to getting back out on the trails. However, I was a little apprehensive because the first 3 weeks of the year I’ve been doing pretty big mileage (for me) as well as going to track and pushing the pace. I definitely approached the marathon as a training run and it was quite good to go into it relaxed not worrying about finishing time or positon.
With the race starting at 8:45 I woke up at 6am to head to James and Claudia’s. I was lucky enough to be asked to run as part of the AR (Advent Running/ar collective) trail team for the trailscape series and they’ve been kind enough to give me lifts to the races. After putting up the marquee and AR banner we had time to catch up with other members of the AR team and familiar trailscape faces from previous races.   

 The AR Trail Team (photo courtesy of Emma Sherwood @emmash32)

Jonny, Freya & me (Photo courtesy of Freya @fhotson)

Jonny & Freya, who run with a couple Nike run clubs and do long runs with me and a group of friends, were signed up to the marathon too which was good. We didn’t talk about goal times or anything but due to the fact we were all treating the race as a training run we ran together. Having done the last two trailscape races I learnt that the event is much more fun if you’ve got people to share the miles with. In the first event I ran a lot of the course with James and in the second race I made friends with an experienced marathoner. We settled into a good pace in the first few kilometres, the only problem was we ended up heading off course. I’m not 100% sure what happened but a small group of us missed a sign somewhere. All I know is James and Andy two fellow ARers were near the front! Haha After the slight detour we found ourselves back on course but behind a lot of other runners that went the right way. When doing tiring muddy trail marathons (that are generally longer than a marathon anyway) the last thing you need is to add distance.

The good thing about going the wrong way is that when moving through the field (pun intended) you get to see lots of other runners and have a quick chat. The miles went by really quickly, I’m not sure what me, Jonny & Freya were talking about half the time but we had lots of laughs.   

 Photo taken by Lucy @ljhoare

One thing we discussed was motivational/inspiring quotes. There was a hill to climb, only was it a hill!? We came up with the motivational saying “The hill is only as big as it is in your mind”. The marathon was a two lap route. This was good because we got to see other runners and high five; I have really enjoyed the trailscape races because all of the participants and organisers are so friendly. One of my favourite parts of the race were the aid stations, I described the event to Jonny and Freya as a long distance picnic. I had forgotten how much I enjoy Soreen, Hula Hoops, Jaffa Cakes and coke. 

 Why would you place a photographer just after an aid station!

We kept a pretty steady pace all the way round, we didn’t stop at the aid stations for long and only really walked the seriously muddy climb near the end of the route. We finished in around 4 hours and 10 minutes, Freya was 2nd female and me and Jonny finished in the top 15 or so.  


The medals are definitely worth the effort!

Once I finished I caught up with James, he finished 3rd. He was disappointed but he still achieved a great time especially considering the big mileage he has been doing and the tough conditions. Andy finished first in 3 hours and 20 minutes which is amazing on a course so muddy and undulating. I peeled off my muddy compression socks and got into clean warm clothes and then we cheered in a few runners and watched the presentations. It was great to see a lot of the AR trail team crossing the finish line, some of them were doing their first marathons and Hannah finished her first of twelve this year. After Freya collected her Buff for finishing second we headed back to London, we carried on the picnic in the car with pork pies (recommended by ultra-runner Holly Rush ha) crisps, and brownies/rocky roads. Overall a productive Saturday. My weekly mileage totalled 130k+ and therefore I rested on Sunday. My recovery rate is improving and I’m aiming to do a few more weeks of around 120k including track and do more speed work in February and March. I hope everyone had a great weekend and that your training is going well.

See a lot of you soon


Follow me on Twitter &/or Instagram: @StephenSkinner6

Also follow: @adventrunning @ar_collective @trailscape

Trailscape Marathon – Newport, North

On Saturday 31st of October I did the Trailscape marathon in Newport. This was the Northern race in the Trailscape rail to trail series that heads North, East, South and West of London so runners can race some great trails. I was asked by James and Claudia to join the AR (Advent Running) Adidas trail team a few weeks ago and instantly accepted the invite to race with them. Since meeting Advent Running we have enjoyed some great events, we smashed the Adidas Thunder Run, ran 50k (58k in the end) along the river crossing a lot of bridges on the way and have run for all kinds of reasons including bagels and beers.  

This  was taken by Ash Tehrani (@ashrunstheworld) on a recent Friday morning beigel run.

I run for a lot of the same reasons these guys do and therefore I’m looking forward to doing many more events and races with the team. The team is being supported by Adidas (as you could probably tell) and Stance socks which is great.

Despite doing the Bristol+Bath Marathon on the 25th of October I couldn’t resist signing up to the first trailscape race and decided the marathon distance would be a good challenge to see if I could recover quickly enough. I have tested myself in quite a few ways this year from numerous half marathons, marathons, Wings for Life (being caught by David Coulthard) to 24 hour team relays, fell races etc. I was nervous but excited to see how I would feel on this second marathon in six days. In the week between Bristol+Bath and the trailscape marathon I didn’t run much. I was back in Holsworthy, Devon for a couple of days after B+B and therefore couldn’t resist about an 11 mile run on Tuesday taking in my old stomping grounds.  Holsworthy Viaduct

I visited all the houses I used to live in whilst running through my hometown taking in the park and some great views.

The only other running I did in the week was the Victoria Park Harriers 2.9 mile handicap on Thursday night. I was planning to take it easy and use it as a shakeout run but those of you that know me or have read previous posts will know what happened. I said I was going to run 18 minutes for the 3 laps but ended up doing closer to 17 minutes as I felt good, I finished in second. In hindsight I maybe should’ve taken it a bit easier but I’ll learn at some point. I rested on the Friday and got a pretty early night after going to watch Spectre (great film!). I woke up at 5.30 on Saturday to get my kit ready and head to meet James, Claudia and Gabriel for 6.30. My legs felt relatively good but I could definitely feel the effects from the marathon the previous Sunday. We got to the race village in good time and set up the AR tent and collected our race numbers etc.   The marathon started at 8.30, for me this was good as I don’t like to be hanging around long before a race, I prefer to crack on. There were roughly 50 runners taking part in the marathon, it was good to see a lot of familiar faces. In the marathon for the AR Adidas Trail team was me, James, Ben, Spencer, Claudia, Gabriel and Lucy.

Having looked up the winning times from last year we knew we would finish highly. Myself and James headed off at around 7:15 min/mile pace, pretty much the same pace I did the Bristol+Bath Marathon at. A few other runners were with us for a bit but after a couple miles we opened up a gap. We were chatting away about the Beyond 26.2 event in The Running Works on Wednesday etc and unfortunately didn’t look down to see an arrow pointing right. After a half mile or so we realised we hadn’t seen any tape for a while so turned round to see a lot of other runners heading in another direction. We soon got back on the right trail and made up the ground quickly whilst chatting with fellow runners and AR Adidas Trail teammates. We soon got back into the lead holding the pace we thought was maintainable. It was good to share a lot of the miles with James. Being tired from the Bristol+Bath marathon etc it was good to have someone to chat to. James having completed 5 ironman triathlons, Western States 100 (which is on the bucket list), UTMB and Autumn 100 is a great person to listen to and pick up tips from. Over the marathon and ultramarathon distances pacing and nutrition is key and this is something I am going to experiment with more in the coming weeks and months. One thing I will be trialling is a caffeinated gel for the last 5 or 10k. I generally use the SIS gels, one every 7 miles or so which tends to work but every now and then I feel like I need an extra boost especially in the latter stages of races, hopefully a caffeinated gel has the same effect on me as James, he flew.

Another plus of running with James was that I could see where his foot was gripping or slipping. I took the front every now and then but predominantly I was following him. The course was really varied, there were sections where your feet would slide around, other sections where the mud would stick to your trainers (I wore my Inov-8 Race Ultra 270) and there was a knee deep “puddle” to swim through. It was quite good that the course was two laps because once you’d done the first lap you knew which “racing lines” to take. Albeit every now and then you could still be sliding around like Bambi on ice but that’s all part of the fun right. It was quite good fun to just run through the knee deep puddle, there was no tip-toeing around that. Photo courtesy of @trailscape

I may have to invest (I’m justifying buying more running shoes!) in some more trail shoes soon, my inov-8s were good but it probably would’ve helped to have something with a bit more grip/larger lugs. If anyone has any recommendations give me a shout.

We ticked off the miles. As we were getting closer to 20 miles I started to tire, James was looking strong and started to up the pace a little. I had to ease up as I didn’t think I could maintain the pace and I thought I would be risking an injury if I upped it. James carried on at around 7:15 pace; I really struggled over the last 5k or so. Mentally it was quite hard to fall back and have to run the last few miles on my own. However I decided to ease up a lot and just get round. I just visualised the last section of the route and remembered it was downhill to the finish. A couple of runners passed me on the last few miles and I was thinking “Bloody hell, these guys have paced their marathon well!” Then I remembered the half marathon and 10k had been going on and they were racing in those distances. However I picked up the pace a little for the last mile or so and got the job done. I was disappointed I couldn’t hold the pace and give James a race for his money/wooden plaque prize. Overall though I was happy to get round and be able to enjoy 27 miles through the countryside. I can’t complain with second place in 3:30:27 six days after doing my 5th marathon.  That’s six marathons in 18 months now, little bit mental really. It’s good to know I can do marathons back to back weekends, albeit in compromised times, but I’m not planning on doing it often. A huge thanks has to go to the Trailscape organisers, the event was really well organised. The medal, t-shirt and buff are awesome!    Well done to everyone that ran the first trailscape race whether you were doing the marathon, half marathon or 10k. The AR Adidas trail team was represented strongly:

10km – 1st Alex Van Oostrum @alexvanoostrum

Half Marathon – 3rd mens Fabio Rizzo, 2nd female Frida Sofia @missfridasofia

Marathon – 1st mens James Poole @jamesdpoole, 2nd mens Me @stephenskinner6, 1st female Claudia Schroegel @claudi8sA lot of the team also placed in the top 10 across all three distances and some great times were achieved on a tough course. If you want to follow more of the teams racing and adventures I recommend you follow Advent Running on Facebook, Twitter (@adventrunning) & Instagram (@ar-collective). There is a lot coming up! I personally can’t wait for the next trailscape marathon on the 5th of December in Cuxton, Kent for the East race. I also need to look into the logistics of doing some of the Maverick races next year.

Well done to everyone that ran in the New York marathon at the weekend by the way. Looking forward to hearing about it, see a lot of you soon.