1. Bad Running Shoes Are Bad (for me at least)

    Posted September 9, 2019 in running  |  No Comments so far

    Here’s some boring stuff about running shoes.

    For a long time I was running in Saucony Guide 10s. The heel wore out in them quite quickly but otherwise they were great. Once I’d made it to around 500km in one pair of them, I’d buy another pair of the same shoes. I ran the London Marathon in Guide 10s. But once my third pair had been exhausted, that was that.

    You see, running shoes are only around for a certain amount of time before they get “upgraded”. Manufacturers tweak the design of a shoe and release a new version, usually every year or two, with similar characteristics and aimed at more or less the same cohort of runner. When the new design comes out, the older form of the shoe stops being made and eventually disappears from the shops. That’s what had happened to the Guide 10 by the time my third pair was done for.

    This didn’t seem like it would be a big problem. There were new versions of the Guides which would presumably be similar to the Guide 10s, so I bought a pair online without trying them, thinking they would be good. These new shoes were called Guide ISO 2 and they are, in fact, bad. For me anyway.

    When I first tried them on with the orthotic insoles I wear, it was clear right away that they were going to be bad. The insoles are a bit thicker than the standard ones that come with running shoes, and while I’d worn them with maybe three or four types of shoe without issues, these Guide ISO 2s were a different story. My heel felt like it was half out of the shoe.

    To stop the heels from actually popping out of the shoes when I run, I need to lace them so tight that my feet are glowing red when I take them off afterwards. Lacing shoes with such severity isn’t good for you really. And even with this extreme lace tightness my heels have still suffered greatly in the 50-odd kilometres I’ve run in these shoes. The issue is that, because the heel of the shoe is so low down, it’s rubbing against a part of my foot that it’s just not designed to be in contact with.

    I posted earlier in the year about having to stop running because I injured myself. I didn’t mention at the time that these shoes, which I’d just bought, were a big part of the reason why. The feeling of the heel popping out of the shoe was so disconcerting that I switched out of my custom insoles and ran in the standard ones. True enough, the heels were much more stable with the standard insole, but that run, without my own insoles, put me out of action for nearly three months. Lesson learned.

    As I’ve returned to running I’ve kept my insoles in the shoes and have hoped that my feet and the Guide ISO 2s would come to some arrangement, with one moulding the other into a shape that wouldn’t cause me severe pain with each step. But I have to accept by now that it’s not going to happen and these shoes are a lost cause, for me at least. With the next shoes I buy I’ll definitely need to try them on first.

  2. I fell off my bike like an idiot but at least I can run again

    Posted July 23, 2019 in ephemera, running  |  2 Comments so far

    Yesterday I was cycling home. I’ve been doing a lot of cycling since a bad injury stopped me from running nearly two months ago.

    It’s been a curious experience to become faster at cycling. I ride my bike quite often but, with running out of the question, it’s only in these last couple of months that I’ve approached cycling as a primary form of exercise rather than just a way to get from A to B. Previously undeveloped muscle groups have become developed and I’ve become able to maintain speed for longer distances or while going up hills that would, in the past, have slowed me down a lot.

    Anyway all this progress was rendered meaningless yesterday when I had the very humbling experience of falling off my bike. It wasn’t a crash or anything and nobody else can be blamed for it. I was going through a gate when leaving Victoria Park but my positioning was off and one of my handlebars clipped it as I went past. The handlebars immediately turned 90 degrees to the right, the bike decelerated rapidly and I think I went flying over the front wheel.

    When I say “I think” it’s not because I was concussed or unconscious – the whole theme of this incident is closer to farce than drama – but just because it happened so quickly I don’t really remember exactly how I left my bike or how I landed. But land I did, and as I hit the ground I was already blushing with embarrassment.

    My phone (a new smartphone!) had flown out of my backpack and hit the concrete, but was completely unscathed. I had a cut on my hand on on my knee but nothing too serious. The bike was OK, just a bit flustered. I looked around; did anyone see?? Thankfully not. I stood up and dusted myself down, while a few other people came past, and soon rode off after them. This was probably the first time I’ve fallen off a bike since I was a child and it didn’t hurt that much but was a very humbling experience nonetheless.

    In other news, I was finally able this morning to go for a short run. This is the first time I’ve ran (away from a treadmill) since my inexcusable jaunt in Cornwall in late May wrecked my lower back. The many small rituals of running – where to put keys, how to warm up, what kind of speed to go initially, what to do with the GPS watch to get it to show the right information – didn’t flow instinctually in the way they do when I’m running regularly, so I had to make an effort to remember what to do. But it was a great feeling to be running again, even if it was for only 1.8 miles on fairly flat ground.

  3. Train in the rain, run in the sun

    Posted April 18, 2018 in running  |  No Comments so far

    After several months of training for the London Marathon (for which you still sponsor me here!) we’re now close enough to the day of the event that the weather forecast is worth looking at.

    So let’s take a look…


    Yes it’s lovely weather if you’re going to spectate, but for me and most of the other runners it’s pretty bad news. The majority of my long training runs took place while the UK was in the grip of Arctic-style wintry conditions, so I’m completely unprepared for running a serious distance in the blazing sun.

    The last couple of times I did the Hackney Half Marathon were similarly hot and the image of so many people collapsed by the roadside receiving medical attention in the last couple of miles is still fresh in my mind. I just hope I finish Sunday’s race on my feet rather than on my back.

  4. Two weeks to go until the London Marathon

    Posted April 9, 2018 in running  |  No Comments so far

    With under two weeks to go, the countdown has begun to the London Marathon.

    If you haven’t sponsored me yet, you can still do so over at Virgin Money Giving. And it might be worth knowing that my employer, Bloomberg, has a donation matching scheme, so whatever you donate, my company will pitch in to double it. The charity I’m fundraising for, Starlight, will use the funds to bring some magic into the lives of seriously and terminally ill children, so anything you contribute will make a difference.

    If only I could say my training has gone smoothly. It started slowly due to injury, and has been interrupted by a few different problems along the way, as you can see here.

    Weekly distance chart annotated with the various obstacles I faced along the way

    The most recent snag came a couple of weeks ago while on a 20 mile run. After crossing beneath the M25 for the first time — a big moment for me, as I’d long dreamed of running far enough to get out of London and back — my left thigh started to feel a little strained. The feeling didn’t subside and soon afterwards, at around the 12 mile mark, it became painful enough that I had to stop running.

    The situation looked bleak. I was on a canal towpath somewhere near Cheshunt unable to run, around 10 miles from home, and I’d made the error of leaving home with no phone or bank card. The walk back to Walthamstow would be at least three hours, and with my thigh feeling the way it did I wasn’t sure I could even manage it. I began to contemplate the possibility of hitchhiking or flat-out begging for train fare.

    Then my luck changed: I began to notice that, as I walked along, my thigh muscle was feeling a bit better with each step. So I stopped, stretched for a bit, walked some more, and was eventually able to run again.

    Eight miles later I was back home with the 20 miles complete, but that left thigh was really not happy. For the next couple of days it was hard to walk and very hard to go up and down stairs. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to run in the marathon as it felt so serious. I decided to just forget about running for a while, reasoning that as I’d done 20 miles I was psychologically ready for the marathon, and if it took two weeks to recover, so be it.

    In the end the injury receded every day and eight days later I was able to run 5k in Windsor with no flare-ups. After some gradually longer runs I worked my way up to doing 14 miles this morning, and I have no plans to run any longer than than between now and marathon day, when I’ll be running 26.2 miles. I’m sure it’ll be a cinch!

  5. Despite injury, flu and the Beast from the East, it looks like I’ll be running the London marathon after all

    Posted March 15, 2018 in running  |  No Comments so far

    Here’s my latest London marathon training update! (stop snoring at the back)

    As you might remember, I’m running the London marathon for Starlight, a charity that organises fun events and unforgettable experiences for children with terminal and serious illnesses. You can sponsor me here. And thank you to everybody who has already helped!

    At times it’s seemed like this whole marathon attempt was doomed to fail. It started badly when, in December, a physiotherapist grounded me for four weeks, just when my training plan should have been starting. Then in February I was grounded again by the flu, which came at me out of the blue while I was in New York. And then, just as I felt ready to get back in the saddle again, the “Beast from the East” coated the roads and pavements in snow and ice, forcing me indoors to the treadmill.

    All these interruptions have left me lagging behind my training plan, which should have seen me running very often and very far for a few months now. The thought of giving up has crossed my mind more than once. But despite all this, I think I can do it. Last Saturday I ran my longest ever run at 16 miles, and was still able to go out again on Monday to run 10 kilometres, which was encouraging: this time last year, a 16 mile run would have put me out of action for a week or more.

    But 16 miles is still 10.2 miles short of marathon distance so I’ve still got a long way to go. And with 18 miles to run this weekend and 20 miles the weekend after that I won’t be putting my feet up any time soon!

  6. Running around Manhattan

    Posted February 7, 2018 in running  |  No Comments so far

    In April this year, I’m running the London Marathon on behalf of Starlight, a charity that brightens the lives of seriously and terminally ill children. Support me here!

    I’ve never run a marathon before. The longest I’ve ever run was 15 miles and that introduced me to a level of exhaustion I don’t think I’ll ever forget, so this is a big challenge for me. Each week I need to add more distance to build up my endurance, but if I push myself too hard I’ll pick up an injury and set myself back.

    This week’s long run was 15km and, as I’m currently in New York for work, I got the chance to run around Manhattan. This made a big change from the canals and marshes of east London that I usually frequent. I’ve run around Central Park a lot in the past, but this time I thought I’d go on more of a sightseeing run around the city and take some pictures along the way.

    When I started out, it was still dark, and bitterly cold. Here is the Solow Building, my favourite one in Manhattan, looking ominous.

    From this starting point near the south-east corner of Central Park, I headed west along 59th Street until I got to the Hudson River, on the west coast of Manhattan.


    It was still pretty dark at this point and it had been a cold night, so a lot of the surfaces I was running on were covered in thin, treacherous ice, so slippery that it was risky to walk on it, let alone run. After a while I gave up on the pavement and just ran on the deserted cycleway, which wasn’t icy at all.

    I didn’t have an internet-connected device with me so Google Maps wasn’t an option. Instead, I had memorised my planned route, which isn’t that hard in Manhattan where the numbered streets form an easily navigable grid. And on the Hudson side of the island, there are a series of piers which are also numbered, so I was keeping track of these piers as I ran south. This is one of them, Pier 94. My route involved travelling south as far as Pier 40, so there were a lot more of these piers to go.


    There’s also an aircraft carrier moored along the Hudson – it’s the eponymous star attraction of the Intrepid Air & Space Museum. By now you’ll notice that the sky was starting to brighten.


    As the day began I found my eyes drawn to the water and the buildings of New Jersey across the bay, which were staring to glitter as the low sun fell upon them. But I was curious about the bits of Manhattan I was passing too. I used to think of the place as being essentially covered in skyscrapers, but it isn’t – it’s more diverse than that. And of course, more skyscrapers are going up all the time.


    But it’s nice to see buildings that don’t conform to the skyscraper stereotype, like this weird one:


    I finally reached Pier 40 and turned left to cut across Manhattan, going eastwards along Houston Street. This took me into a part of the island that’s very different from the wealthier glitzy areas, and is much more like a place where normal people live, with shops that aren’t aimed at oligarchs, and playgrounds for kids.


    Heartened by this encounter with a side of Manhattan I haven’t had much exposure to, I continued on and reached the other side of the island. Houston Street meets the East River at a place called the East River Park, and this was a high point of my run: the sun was now fully in in the sky, and now that I was on the east coast, the buildings of Manhattan were no longer getting in its way. I liked the look of the East River Park and the Williamsburg Bridge right behind it looked spectacular. And best of all, there was a working public toilet, which was just what I needed at that point in time! You don’t get things like this in London.

    After making use of this facility I began the northbound part of my run, heading up along the East River. The plan was to get up to 60th street and then go back into the city again until I made it back to my hotel. But Manhattan had other plans.

    The east side of the island is, it turns out, a lot worse for pedestrians and cyclists than the west side is. At first it seemed great, especially in the East River Park, and even when I left the park a lot of the pathways looked like this – not as luxurious as the routes on the west coast, but still perfectly fine:

    But before too long these pathways fell away, and I found myself thrown into the mess of gridlocked Manhattan rush hour roads: running along under bridges next to motorways, breathing in car fumes, crossing forecourts of petrol stations, waiting at traffic lights while jogging on the spot to keep my muscles from locking up. It wasn’t fun and I didn’t feel like taking any pictures. By the time I got to the United Nations building I wasn’t able to stick to the river at all and just had to re-enter the city, running up 1st Avenue dodging commuters and waiting at junctions.

    And, with that, the 15km target was reached and I stopped running. It had been good to see new areas of Manhattan and break out of my normal routine, but I’d learned a valuable lesson about the grimness of the eastern pedestrian experience. Next time I run in Manhattan I think I’ll stick to Central Park!








  7. Run home from work on the day of London’s sandy sky

    Posted October 17, 2017 in running  |  No Comments so far

    (see the run on Strava)

    I’d hoped the weird sky would persist for a bit longer so I could have a dreamlike run home through it, but it cleared up before I left work.

    There was still something unnatural about the evening though. The sky seemed clearer than it usually is, as though the Saharan sand had swept away the smog particles that usually blur London’s skylines. Cranes and tall buildings seemed to sparkle with uncanny clarity against the gently darkening twilight. The effect was most obvious in Victoria Park from which I could see the buildings of Stratford very clearly, and I never normally notice them at all.

    The run did, however, make me worried about injury, and I abandoned my plans to run in the next morning because of that. My right leg has become stiff and sore, with the origin point somewhere in the upper thigh/hip area. Maybe it’s been aggravated by using the old running shoes too much (they were up to about 550km) but I’ll need to rest for a few days and hope it dies down.

  8. A mix of envy, inferiority, and profound sympathy – watching the London Marathon

    Posted April 17, 2011 in ephemera, running  |  No Comments so far

    Today we went down to watch the London Marathon. One of Cathy’s colleagues, Pam, was running in it and it was a nice day so why not head down to lend some support?

    I’ve never run a marathon and I’ve never actually watched a long-distance race. I’ve run a 10K before, though, and while that’s not really in the same league as a marathon, I have at least an inkling of what it must feel like to run 26 miles.

    We walked down to the City and met the marathon route just where Dowgate Hill meets Upper Thames Street, south of Cannon Street. Quite quickly I settled into the routine of the well-wisher, shouting encouraging things at the people who ran by. You could add a personal touch by shouting their names as well, because most marathon runners have their names on their vests.

    Before running the 10K last year I would never have done that. I’d have thought people wanted their privacy, that they just wanted to get on with the run without the whoops and shouts of strangers. But I was proved wrong – despite being a pretty antisocial and introspective person, I found the encouragement of the crowd genuinely heartwarming and motivating, so I was determined to try to give some of that encouragement back today.

    Watching people run the marathon, I felt a kind of laziness. Why was I not running it? After doing the 10K last year I could have kept on training and might have been ready for this by now if I’d worked hard enough. So that was a pretty humbling feeling. I was almost envious of the runners.

    But at the same time I can’t deny that I felt glad I wasn’t running. I mean, you know – your rational mind can figure it out – that running 26 miles is going to be gruelling. But when you see the faces of normal people who are in the process of doing it, you get a clearer sense of just how hard it is. We even had a few people stop next to us and nearly collapse (but they all kept running in the end!). At those times I was glad that I was on the “civilian” side of the banner.

    The marathon represents something quite rare in British society in that it seems morally unambiguous. Almost everyone is running for charity, no-one can sneer at the enormity of the task, and the whole structure of class and privilege seems to have no place amidst the sea of runners. You see the odd person waving an England flag but all in all you don’t get the sense of this being about nations competing: it’s about human achievement plain and simple. Maybe I’ll try to do a marathon next year after all.

  9. The 10K run: over and done with

    Posted July 11, 2010 in running  |  No Comments so far

    Today was the day of the Asics 10K London Run, the first serious running event I’ve ever taken part in. And I finished the race alive, getting to the finish line in just over 54 minutes!

    But what’s more impressive is that my sponsors helped me raise a total of £290 – much more than my goal of £200. That money will go to the Haller Foundation, a charity that works towards environmental and economic development in Kenya. It’s not too late to sponsor me, of course – just head over to my page on JustGiving.com if you’d like to chip in.

    The race itself

    My usual running routine is pretty simple. I run up to Highbury Fields, circle it several times, then come back home. Other runners will be there but it’s hardly packed. So the 20,000 participants in today’s run made it a very different experience.

    The race route – click to see larger version

    There were lots of novel things about today’s experience. Here are three of them.

    To begin with, it was funny being a cause of, rather than merely subject to, a massive transport disruption in central London. As soon as I arrived at Piccadilly and saw the thousands of runners mobbing the cordoned-off streets, I realised that the race had more or less shut down Westminster for the morning. Usually when these things happen I’m one of the people on a diverted bus cursing the event and everyone involved, so it was nice for the boot to be on the other foot.

    Another thing that surprised me was how encouraging I found the spectators. I’m accustomed to running in a near-deserted field so wasn’t looking forward to thousands of strangers looking on and shouting. But in the end I actually missed them on the stretches of race where they weren’t allowed. Hopefully it won’t seem too lonely next time I run around Highbury Fields!

    Finally there was the sheer size of the crowd. On Highbury Fields you might pass an unpredictable dog or a pavement-spanning pushchair armada, but at least there aren’t 20,000 other people running around. When there are, you quickly learn two things: i) there are lots of people slower than you and ii) there are lots of people faster than you. This means you need to read the crowd, in front as well as behind you. Running into someone’s back or being run into by someone else could lead to a pretty painful fall, so you really have to look out.

    Cathy came along to cheer me on, and found it so inspiring that she went to the gym afterwards and ran 5km on the treadmill for the first time ever. And I was pretty inspired too. I will definitely be doing it again!

  10. Running 10,000 metres in July – and looking for sponsors!

    Posted June 9, 2010 in running  |  No Comments so far

    On Sunday July 11th 2010, I’m taking part in a 10,000 metre run in central London. It’s my first proper race and I’m doing it for charity – so all donations are welcome!

    To donate, please visit my JustGiving page and follow the instructions. It won’t take more than a few minutes.

    The charity I’m running for is the Haller Foundation who work for economic and ecological development in Kenya. To find out more about why I’m running for them, click here.

    The Race

    The race I’m running is the ASICS British 10K London Run. Its official website can be found here but be warned, it is absolutely atrocious! So to spare you from having to experience its full horror, here’s what you need to know.

    It all kicks off at 9.35am on Sunday 11th July 2010. The starting point is Hyde Park Corner (Google Maps link).

    The route goes down to the river via Trafalgar Square and then eastwards to Tower Bridge, where we turn around and come back along Embankment. We’ll go west as far as Westminster Bridge before heading up to the Houses of Parliament, then finally along Whitehall to the finish line at Horse Guards (Google Maps link).

    My plan is to run the race in 50 minutes, so if there are no complications I should be finishing at approximately 10.30am. I’ll then most likely be on the lookout for a local pub to visit (although obviously not The Greencoat Boy!).

    The Haller Foundation

    The charity I’m running for is the Haller Foundation. You’d be forgiven for not having heard of them – I hadn’t until a month ago, when I visited their stall at the Camley Street Natural Park Festival and got talking to their representatives.

    The Haller Foundation works in support of economic and ecological development in Kenya. They rightly view economic and ecological issues as completely interlinked, and this is reflected in the way they work.

    They focus on providing small farming communities with techniques and tools that can be sustainably managed, without need for ongoing outside support. They encourage farmers to work smaller plots of land far more effectively, which in turn delivers ecological improvement at the regional scale. And they recognise that human communities, economies and ecosystems are all emergent and highly interlinked systems, which respond best to change coming from the “bottom-up” instead of from the “top-down”.

    Please sponsor me in this 10K run and help the Haller Foundation continue to improve the lives of communities, economies and ecosystems in east Africa.