The Scottish Barefoot Run

The second Scottish Barefoot Run and Conference took place on Saturday 14th September 2013. The information and video below offer a short taster of what happened on the day.

“The second annual National Conference and run for the barefooters and natural runners. This years event was very well attended with Barefoot Ted from Chris MacDougall’s Book ‘Born To Run’ in attendance, all the way from Seattle. Joe Warne research scientist mid way through PHD at Dublin University on Sports Physiology but doing research into barefoot running adaptation relativities. Jae Gruenke from New York’s Balanced Runner speaking on the Fieldenkrais method which is very interesting. This movie only shows the main events and not the full presentations which were exemplary.”

The Scottish Barefoot Run & Conference 2013 from BarefootworksTV Channel on Vimeo.

Charging On The Go

Battery life has to be one of the most common gripes for anyone who participates in ultramarathons, or who likes to walk or run for extended periods, be it in terms of hours or days. My preferred running watch is the Suunto Ambit which, with the correct settings, should be able to record run data for 50 hours approx. Around 60 miles into the 2012 West Highland Way Race, my Garmin 310XT died and I had to swap to another watch to see me to the end of the race. One of my biggest regrets is not being able to get a complete GPS track from start to finish. This was the perfect excuse to invest in a Suunto Ambit and sounds like a perfect excuse for doing the race again if you ask me!

However, this time around, I will be armed with the Suunto Ambit, with (hopefully) its 50 hours approx of battery life. This should be more than enough time for even me to complete. If not I’m in trouble given that there’s a 35 hour limit!

Just in case the battery fades before I do, I will also have a Duracell Portable USB Charger 1150 mAh with me.

Having read a number of positive blog posts online, I opted to purchase one of the Duracell Chargers. At only £10.00 I figured it was well worth a shot, and less of a gamble than when the charger was on sale at the full £29.99 retail price.

The charger arrived with me today and, by way of  a test, I plugged it into my Suunto Ambit which was sitting at 69% charge. This was soon back up at %100 which, come race day, should see me get to the finish line with a complete GPS track of whatever race I am completing.

The Suunto’s own charge cable simply plugs into the unit and, as such, I could quite easily have the watch still on my arm, with the charger tucked away somewhere close at hand, or in a backpack or waistpack.

Well worth checking out if you are at all concerned about battery life of your GPS/phone.

PUMA PB Challenge 3 Weeks And Counting

I have always considered my petite little derrière to be one of my best features. Until, that is, my running form was put under scrutiny of late by a couple of physiotherapists, firstly by Keith Allen-Shirtcliffe at  Witty, Pask & Buckingham and, latterly, Iona at SPEAR Physiotherapy in Aberdeen Sports Village.

Now, I have to admit, that before embarking on my role as a PUMA PB Challenge Ambassador, I would likely never even have considered visiting a physio. However, as far as my running is concerned, it has to be one of the best things that I have done.

I was fully aware that my running ‘form’, and I do use the word ‘form’ in the loosest possible sense, was fairly far removed from anything bordering on athletic. I did, however, think that my ‘ultra shuffle’, was a fairly efficient, if not somewhat slow, style that got me from A to B on anything from 5k to 95 miles.

That illusion was shattered on my first visit to the physio when, if memory serves me correctly, there was at least an element of surprise that I had managed to complete any ultramarathon distance! That first appointment was hugely enlightening but also, I have to admit, somewhat overwhelming. Keith’s sharp eye soon identified flaws and imbalances in my body as I stood there in nothing more than a pair of shorts. What’s more, that was with me stationary. We hadn’t even gotten as far as the treadmill!

I left that appointment with a great deal of admiration for Keith and for his profession in general. I still find it quite amazing that someone could look at me and identify all manner of flaws, weaknesses and imbalances. Granted, there’s a lot of training and experience to get to that stage but still, it’s quite a skill.

Some basic stretching confirmed the initial diagnosis and then it was on to the treadmill to see just how this all impacted on my running. The findings were equally grim!

It turns out that my ultra shuffle has more in common with walking. There’s a definition of running over at that reads:

“To move swiftly on foot so that both feet leave the ground during each stride.”

The ‘both feet leave the ground‘ part is the fundamental thing that differentiates running from walking. Video evidence showed my ultra shuffle had both feet off the ground for no more than a single frame of video, whatever fraction of a second that might be! (I really didn’t want to depress myself any further by asking at that point!)

And yet, when I left that first appointment, after some 1.5-2 hours, I still felt positive, testament to Keith’s other skills. I left armed with a different approach to running, with a number of stretches, and with some exercises specific to the weaknesses identified. Admittedly, the suggested running form felt quite ‘prancey’ (for lack of a better word!). However, just weeks on from the appointment, it is slowly starting to feel more natural and is most definitely more efficient. As soon as I adopted the suggested changes I found that my previous running speed felt too slow and the video evidence immediately suggested an improvement in overall form.

By all accounts it will take approximately 1 year for my new form to feel entirely natural and, while I am certainly more comfortable with it, I do find myself reverting to the ultra shuffle on occasion, and especially when tiring. It’s just one of those things that I am going to have to slowly work on and improve upon.

So, what exactly was identified as being problematic and what is my new running form?

Just for the record, I am no physio. In fact, I can barely name the muscle groups in the legs that I task with getting me from A to B on a daily basis. As such, what follows, is my attempt to distill down all the facts from my physio appointments into a succinct explanation of the problem.

Essentially, I have what is a relative glute weakness, where:

“the function of the Glutes is overshadowed by the disproportionate strength of other muscle groups, built up due to habitual movement patterns and poor technique in training which creates strength imbalances.” (Kinetic Revolution – Glute Weakness)

In layman’s terms, that petite little derrière that I mentioned way back at the start of this post (see, there was a point!), is actually less ‘petite’, more accurately ‘underdeveloped’, at least relative to the surrounding muscles. And, as everyone tells me:

“The gluteus maximus plays a significant role throughout the running technique, including propelling the body forward and maintaining proper torso alignment.” (Livestrong – The Human Gluteus Maximus & Its Role in Running)

It gets worse. Not only is there an overall glute weakness. It turns out that it is worse in the left glute. At this point I have to ask myself:

  1. how on earth did I manage to get in this situation in the first place!
  2. how did I manage to end up with one glute weaker than the other! (after all, it’s the same butt at the end of the day!)

So, I am under utilising one of the largest and most powerful muscles in my body and, what’s more, this is impacting elsewhere in my body, causing all manner of strange compensations and, over the past few weeks, niggles.


Back to the running form.

My suggested running form includes far greater use of the arms to try and propel myself along. There’s also far greater use of the legs, moving away from my favoured shuffle in favour of a more sprung, energy efficient form that involves getting both feet off the ground for a longer period of time. That’s a total simplification but, suffice to say, it resembles something considerably more athletic than my previous form.

  • Improved form
  • Exercises
  • Stretches

Technically I should be in a great place right now, gearing up to meet my PUMA PB Challenge race at the Great Scottish Run in Glasgow on 6th October. Technically!

I ran faster than I have in years at the Moray 10k a few weeks back, matching speeds that were last attained by a much younger, lighter me some 5 years ago!

This, I believe, is testament to the excellent support that I have received in my role as a PUMA PB Challenge Ambassador. From the excellent nutrition advice from Sarah at Mac Nutrition, that highlighted that I actually needed to eat more, not less, to achieve my long sought after weight loss; from the meticulously thought out training plan provided by The Running Bug’s Hayley Munn; from the physio advice and support, firstly from Keith and now from SPEAR Physiotherapy; and, last but definitely not least, from my fellow Running Bugs, spurring me on to make the most of the amazing opportunity that I have been presented with.

Unfortunately, 3 weeks out from my PB Challenge event, I have to admit to being injured, which has impacted on the last 3 weeks of training. Ironically, it would appear that the very weaknesses outlined above are the cause. I have a persistent throbbing in my right leg that is aggravated by walking and, especially, by running.

Talk about terrible timing!

It would appear that my attempt to improve upon my running pace may actually have exasperated the weakness that has long been there. The increased effort of intervals, progressive runs etc, combined with attempts to rectify my poor running form, have actually aggravated issues, resulting in the intense pain of the past few weeks. (Again, this is just my take on the words of the physio).

However, I am now back receiving regular physio treatment which, with a bit of luck, should resolve the acute pain and get me back training and, further, should aid my efforts to rectify the weaknesses explained above. Ultimately, the aim is to become a much stronger, more efficient, and more evenly balanced runner.

Other than a single achilles injury, I never really considered myself as ‘injured’ the whole time that I was running ultramarathons. However, looking back on the past few years, I did experience persistent ITB issues in my right leg, more often than not during rather than after the event. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, this further highlights the impact of the weak glutes and, in particular, of that particularly weak left glute.

Had I not visited a physio, I would be none the wiser with regard to my imbalances and weaknesses. Chances are, as I stepped up my efforts to improve my pace, I would encounter more and more niggles. Thankfully, I am in a much better position to meet the challenges ahead and to try and address these issues which should hopefully lead to injury free running.

As for the PUMA PB Challenge. 3 weeks is a long time. 4 weeks out from the biggest race of my life to date, the 95 mile West Highland Way Race, I suffered an achilles injury and yet I still managed to complete that race. I have every intention of doing the same with the Great Scottish Run and I have not given up on the goal of a PB come the 6th October.

I hope that all of your PB challenges are going well. With a bit of luck, your path towards that elusive PB will be a bit smoother than mine has been these past few weeks!

Scottish Ultra Marathon Series 2013 Champions

Congratulations to all of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series 2013 champions:

M/F Surname First name cat Position Total
M Paul Giblin M Overall 1 1488.022
M Donnie Campbell M Overall 2 1487.489
M John McLaughlin MV Overall 3 1468.667
M Gerry Craig MV 1 1363.249
M Nick Rennie MV 2 1348.596
M Roland McCraw MV 3 1309.159
M Mark Ashby MSV 1 1231.061
M Bill Watson MSV 2 1180.406
M Donald Sandeman MSV 3 1165.454
M Alan Robertson M60 1 1072.199
F Rosie Bell FV Overall 1 1451.589
F Caroline McKay F Overall 2 1424.736
F Kathy Henly FV Overall 3 1411.686
F Joanna Rae FV 1 1364.225
F Melanie Sinclair FV 2 1316.251
F Sandra McDougall FV 3 1269.14
F Carole Fortune FSV 1 1283.374
F Margaret Bryant FSV 2 965.5896
F Morna Fleming F60 1 1106.316

Full results can be found at the SUMS website:

Barefoot Running Magazine, Issue 9 (Summer 2013)

The latest Barefoot Running Magazine is now available. Issue 9, Summer 2013, includes:

  • A conversation with Liz Yelling
  • Behind the “Energy” in Energy drinks
  • In Focus with Jenn Shelton
  • Monkeying around with Barefoot Ted in London
  • Review of The Cool Impossible by Eric Orton
  • How to set up your bike for reduced injury and increased performance
  • And much more!

This issue contains my second contribution as a member of the Long-Term Test Team – a review of the Merrell Vapor Gloves.

Ultra Tales, Issue 8

Issue 08 of Ultra Tales covers primarily UK ultra event reports from July-Aug 2013.

This issue included event reports from the UltraRace 100, Thames Ring, World Trail Championship, OMM Intro Ultra, Race to the Stones, Clyde Stride, Rallavegslopet, 12 Labours of Hercules, Lakeland 50/100, Grim Reaper, Stockholm 100k, Round the Rock Ultra, North Downs Way 100, Salisbury 50k, Hell on the Humber, Berlin 100, John Lucas Memorial Run, Trans Gaule, Run to the Castle, Ridgeway Challenge.

This issue contains runners profiles for Lee Brown, John Goodson, Mark Weir and Stuart Gibson.

Issue 8 also includes articles on “The Crap We Carry”, Bare Foot Running, Spartathlon, Marathon Roundup and DNF corner.

Please note the .pdf file is a large download (40mb file) and may take several minutes to open depending upon the speed of your internet connection.

Jurek Collection At The Ultramarathon Running Store

The Ultramarathon Running Store has just added the Ultimate Direction Jurek Collection to their product range, including the minimal Ultimate Direction Jurek Essential Waist Belt, the Ultimate Direction Jurek Endure Waist Hydration Belt and the Ultimate Direction Handheld Water Bottle: Jurek Grip.

“Hydration products should be at your finger tips when you need them but they should just provide you with the bare essentials and the Jurek Collection from Ultimate Direction really does that.” (Scott Jurek)

Jurek Essential Waist Belt

“The ideal compliment to the Grip, the Jurek Essential allows you to efficiently carry – and access – a phone in a pocket, food in a stretch mesh pocket, and your valuables in a secure smaller pocket that can be re–positioned as needed.  Uber comfortable and breathable, you won’t be able to tell you have it on.”

Jurek Endure Waist Hydration Belt

“Ounce per ounce, the Jurek Endure belt does more than any other waist pack.  Scott wanted twin bottles because they balance the load, and you can use one for water and the other for your sports drink mix. One can quickly stash a windshell, gloves, and even a hat into the stretch mesh pocket and innovative bungee system, and the movable front pocket allows you to whip out a bar or gel without breaking stride.”

Handheld Water Bottle: Jurek Grip

“Minimalism comes to hydration – the Scott Jurek handheld, named the GRIP, is the most efficient way to carry a water bottle.  Too much weight in your hand means too much energy is being expended, so Scott recommends carrying only water in your hand, with a new design that is super light, comfortable, and fully adjustable.”

Moray 10k & An Ultra Legend Wins The Marathon

Well my first 10k since 2009 has come and gone and, overall, I am happy with how things went. Ideally, I would have been looking to put some of my PUMA PB Challenge Ambassador training to use to beat my PB of 49:36. However, the past 2 weeks have seen my training schedule somewhat derailed with exceptionally tight calves and then with a numbness of the right leg that somehow manages to combine both numbness and pain during and after runs.

In the 2 days before the 10k, I found myself feeling quite nervous about the event and, in fact, I think I was equally nervous as I have been for some of the longer ultras. I know some people expect the shorter distances to be no problem but things have changed considerably for me this year.

For one, I am still getting back into the swing of things after my running went out the window following the birth of my son Harris. It always amazes me just how quickly it is possible to lose accrued race fitness.

Secondly, all this training has thrown up some problems of its own, most notably that, after all my speedwork, I have actually been finding it difficult to re-establish my ‘normal’ race pace. I have a tendency still to go out too fast, despite telling myself not to, and then flagging, only to pick it up again, flag again, repeating the cycle until end of the event.

Thirdly, with all the training and support, I feel there’s an air of expectation for me to do better than I have in the past. I’ve had nutitional support, physio support, training support, and, of course, lots of encouragement from family, friends and fellow Running Bugs. Just thinking about getting that 1/2 marathon PB in 5 weeks time makes me sweat!

Writing this now, in the aftermath of the race, it’s obvious that things aren’t quite right as far as the legs are concerned. Or, more accurately, as far as the right leg is concerned. There’s a dull throbbing numb feeling which is slightly worrying but, given the exertions of yesterday, I’m just glad that it feels no worse than it has done over the past few days.

On the positive side, I did better than I expected to. My time, of 51:46, was some way short of my 10k PB. However, putting things into perspective, it’s approximately 9 minutes faster than I was running 6.2 miles in back at the start of my PUMA PB Challenge in mid July. It’s my 4th fastest 10k ever out of a total of 15 10k races and the fastest that I have run a 10k since early 2008. I know I haven’t run a 10k since 2009 but trust me when I say I haven’t been running that fast in the interim!

(Official results 3rd September: 51:46, 120th out of 271 finishers)

There’s identifiable room for improvement, 5 weeks to do it in before the 1/2 marathon, and 5 weeks (hopefully) of further weight loss. I clearly still have work to do, but can at least identify the how/why/what/when :o)

There’s definitely hope for that all important 1/2 marathon PB. Hopefully this annoying niggle in my right leg wont get in the way of any more training and then it will be full steam ahead to the 6th October.

Some general observations from yesterday:

  • 10k is definitely a family friendly distance. I left Leanne and Harris to travel through to the start line, ran the race, and met them at the finish, all within 2 hours. Definitely more family friendly than the 8-30 hours absence that accompany my ultramarathons
  • I had forgotten just how different it is running an ultramarathon and a 10k. With the ultra, it’s definitely more relaxed (at my end of the field at least!). With the 10k it was all about continued maximal effort, albeit for a much shorter time
  • I enjoyed it, to the extent that I am looking to see when I can next run a 10k where, hopefully, I can get a PB

Ellie Greenwood

What I didn’t realise until checking Facebook later on Sunday once I returned home was that ultra legend Ellie Greenwood was competing in the Moray Marathon and won the ladies race. Ellie was born in Dundee but has been living, working and racing in Canada for years, living in Banff initially and now in Vancouver. Congratulations on the win Ellie.

Ellie Greenwood Racing Highlights

  • Western States 100 mile Endurance Run Course Record, California, USA. (2012, 16:47:19)
  • Comrades 89km 2nd place, South Africa. (2012, 6:08:24, downhill course)
  • IAU World 100km Champion, Gibraltar (2010, 7:29:05)
  • Marathon Personal Best, Vancouver, Canada (2012, 2:42:15)
  • 2011 & 2012, North American Female Ultrarunner of the Year (awarded by Ultrarunning Magazine)