Hilly 25miles, rubbing shoes, endless brownies. Written 30th April, by Rob.

Mark and I are planning to run 100 miles across England in August, from Carlisle to Durham, crossing the North Pennines. A goal which was born on a dark and cold New Year's day, whilst thinking of a fairly lofty goal we could do this year, as we want to raise money for Bowel Cancer UK, a charity aiming to save lives and also improve the quality of life of everyone affected by Bowel Cancer. So I had an idea.

‘Ok Mark, got an idea for you.’

‘Right, go on…’

‘We run across England’

‘What do you mean across England?’

‘Not up and down obviously, we go left to right, I mean West to East, across the north. The shortest point is 69 miles, but we can stretch it out over the North Pennines and make it 100.’

‘F*cking hell…yeh, alright then.’

This weekend was our first proper training run together. We have cycled the ‘CycleHorsmonden’ charity ride before, which raises money for Walking with the Wounded, but we thought this year we would run it instead. They offer a 25, 50 and 75 mile route for the cyclists, so we thought we would start with the 25…

Up to this point we have been running on our own, when we can, trying to increase mileage gradually but with no real structure.

We both track our runs on our Garmin smart watches, so it makes it easy to check up on progress.

So from January 1st up to the day before this marathon, I have clocked 176 miles, which is an average of 10.38 miles a week. God I’ve only just worked that out, that is truly terrible.

Let’s check Marks. 217 total, Ok, not much better, 12.76 miles per week.

Recently however, Mark has been doing great, he ran 24 miles last weekend, and several half marathons in the weeks prior. B&stard. Most of his miles have come recently, as they should. Unlike mine….

My right knee has been playing up. I get pain on the outside of the joint anywhere from 5k to 10k in, depending on how recently I last ran. Sometimes this means I have to stop the run altogether which is very demoralising, especially when you have 100miles peaking around the corner…

This is a common running injury, often referred to as ‘Runner’s Knee’, and is usually due to a tight IT band, which runs down the outside of the thigh, but can also be caused by weak gluteus medias, or tight calves to name just a few. Opinions can vary quite a lot.

So whilst Mark has been clocking up the long runs, I have been exploring different ways to get over this niggling knee, including completely changing the way I run.

I have been playing around with my running style after reading Born to Run, which describes how modern running shoes are ruining our knees, and how we were born to run by forefoot striking, and not landing on our heels which is only made possible by the large amount of cushioning in modern trainers. The idea is that the cushioning only transfers the impact up the leg, it doesn’t really ‘cushion’ anything, the force has to go somewhere…

My runs of late have looked more like someone running across hot sand, bouncing around the place without much grace or balance, trying to figure out how someone can possibly run long distances whilst landing on the forefoot.

Then I realised I was doing it all wrong.

I stumbled across this video of a Crossfit athlete getting running coaching, and the way the coach breaks it down is just awesome. I basically just copied what he was telling this guy to do, and over the course of 3 weeks I have built up to the point of running 10k with no knee pain. The impact is being absorbed through my achilles and calf, rather than through the knee, and although this requires a much greater amount of achilles and calf strength, it is working.

I would say I now resemble a show pony, clip clopping around, focusing on driving my knees up in front of me, leading from the hips rather than from the chest, and landing on my forefoot close to my centre of gravity, rather than out in front of me.

This weekend was the first real test. Jumping from 10k to a marathon isn’t ideal, but it was in the diary and we were going to try.

We arrived at CycleHorsmonden nursing a 2 day hangover but fuelled well on last nights spag bol. The aim: complete in 5 hours. The reason being is that is the pace we are hoping to replicate 4 times in a row for the 100miler.

And we did it. 4:48

The knee held out pain-free, which was pretty bloody great, and bodes well for future training. Now to stretch, rest and roll (foam roll).

The only niggle throughout the whole run, was my right shoe began to rub, enough so to draw blood. Now on the 100miler you would be stopping as soon as you feel any rubbing to tape it up, but we had not packed any tape. Lesson #1.

 

It was great to get out of London to run in the countryside and refuel on the endless brownies that had been generously baked in the days prior.

We sat there, on the village green, stretching, eating, and pondering….

‘We are going to have to do 3 more of them, in a row.’

Better get running.

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