Natural Born Heroes by Chris McDougall, book preview and meet the author

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‘The best-selling author of Born to Run now travels to the Mediterranean, where he discovers that the secrets of ancient Greek heroes are still alive and well on the island of Crete, and ready to be unleashed in the muscles and minds of casual athletes and aspiring heroes everywhere.

After running an ultramarathon through the Copper Canyons of Mexico, Christopher McDougall finds his next great adventure on the razor-sharp mountains of Crete, where a band of Resistance fighters in World War II plotted the daring abduction of a German general from the heart of the Nazi occupation. How did a penniless artist, a young shepherd, and a playboy poet believe they could carry out such a remarkable feat of strength and endurance, smuggling the general past thousands of Nazi pursuers, with little more than their own wits and courage to guide them? 

McDougall makes his way to the island to find the answer and retrace their steps, experiencing first hand the extreme physical challenges the Resistance fighters and their local allies faced. On Crete, the birthplace of the classical Greek heroism that spawned the likes of Herakles and Odysseus, McDougall discovers the tools of the hero—natural movement, extraordinary endurance, and efficient nutrition. All of these skills, McDougall learns, are still practiced in far-flung pockets throughout the world today.

More than a mystery of remarkable people and cunning schemes, Natural Born Heroes is a fascinating investigation into the lost art of the hero, taking us from the streets of London at midnight to the beaches of Brazil at dawn, from the mountains of Colorado to McDougall’s own backyard in Pennsylvania, all places where modern-day athletes are honing ancient skills so they’re ready for anything. 

Just as Born to Run inspired readers to get off the treadmill, out of their shoes, and into the natural world, Natural Born Heroes will inspire them to leave the gym and take their fitness routine to nature—to climb, swim, skip, throw, and jump their way to their own heroic feats.’

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Chris in Conversation

As an introduction, Chris talked to us about his motives for writing. Ultimately his ideas come from stories about normal people (who become ‘Bad Asses’) who then discover/perform abnormal feats of endurance, courage and adventure. His first book Born to Run was founded in this theme – how one self-professed ‘normal guy’ went from asking the question ‘why does my foot hurt?’ to taking part in ‘the greatest race the world has never seen’. His new book is another exploration of this, how resistance fighters and allies defied one of the most brutal war machines the world has on record using only what nature had given them and us as a species; natural movement, endurance and the ability to use fat as fuel.

Paraphrased Q&A (Verbatim, not word for word, sorry for any inaccuracy and for missing some of the answers!)

Q: How long is your creative process?
A: I had the idea for the new book in 2010, just as Born To Run had been published in fact, but then didn’t have a finished article until 2014, so 4 years from proposal to launch. Each part of research becomes its own little tunnel of time. The ideas come from running and taking the time to think whilst running. But then when exploring certain themes, you become interested in accompanying topics which then need exploring to ensure that the story you are telling is factually accurate. For example I started researching parkour and flow state and found the whole practice fascinating and really needed to be able to understand it, how it effected guys who were involved in the movement and then also how that links back to natural animalistic instinct.

Q: Your background is as a journalist in which research is a crucial part of writing on a subject, how do you go about reaching a level where you are comfortable writing about an idea
A: There has to be a story. I am first and foremost a reporter and an informed story teller as opposed to a scientist. Descriptive not Prescriptive.

Q: Trends in running have changed over the last 5 years. Is there anything that excites you or worries you?
A: Chris – I am concerned that running (for example a marathon) has become about surviving or beating the distance. Then once you’ve accomplished it that’s the end of the process. I’d like to see running as a continual process, training, enjoyment, having fun and finding value in the act not just the accomplished.
A: Charlie (Run Dem Crew) – I also find that enjoyment is being squeezed out in favour of financial gain. Can people who can’t afford to run also be able to participate? We need to ensure that running is fun, enjoyable and a vehicle through which people can realise their potential, not a sport which is pushed along with accompanying race fees, medals and product
A: Simon (Like The Wind) – It would be a shame if running became something which needs money and an agenda. People can become overly obsessive about times and kit and it should be about experience, the story and personal achievement
A: Chris – take for example my friend Barefoot Ted, I went to pace some of the Leadville Ultra marathon with him – I got to the aid station at mile 85 of 100 and their were bodies everywhere, people moaning, in pain, then Ted rocks up super happy, no signs of wear, talking non stop and just super excited to be there. He finished in 26hour with a smile on his face having trained for like 20 miles a week rather than 200! I asked Ted about his ‘process’ and he said, ‘I practice pleasure not pain. If it’s fun I come back for more!’

Q: Do you have a favourite place to run or favourite route?
A: Charlie – Hood to Coast run, this is where I went from being a guy who had discovered running in his backyard in Central London as a way to survive, to being part of a relay team running 195 miles. I’d become a runner!
A: Simon – I ran round the alps and Mont Blanc for my honeymoon and this is where my wife and I conceived the idea of ‘Like the Wind’. This was an incredibly liberating moment as we’d discovered what we wanted to spend our lives doing born out of the environment in which we’d found ourselves in that moment.
A: Chris – Running up and down this canal (Grand Union Canal)! There is humanity everywhere! More personally, Pennsylvania which is my backyard. I think when you have a home that you’ve discovered and explored it will always be the place you treasure. The Amish have this idea of your own district / terroir and getting to know it really well.

Many thanks to Like The Wind Magazine (a collection of running stories, personal anecdotes, inspirational tales, reportage, beautiful illustrations and stunning photography) and Run Dem Crew (a collective of creative heads with a passion for running and the exchange of ideas) for arranging the meet the author q&a. It was a great night!

Chris McDougall
https://twitter.com/McDougallChris
http://www.chrismcdougall.com/
http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/207378/natural-born-heroes-by-christopher-mcdougall/

Like The Wind
https://twitter.com/LikeTheWindMag
http://www.likethewindmagazine.com/

Run Dem Crew
https://twitter.com/rundemcrew
http://www.rundemcrew.com/

 

 

CIELE Athletics – FASTCap PLUS

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‘We took everything we learned from our GOCap and re-engineered it into a race ready package we’re calling the FASTCap. Sleek, low profile, fast. More COOLwick mesh for optimum breathability and performance on the day you really need it. Pop the brim and run.’

Colours – Orangeade, Sanford, Chaka, Whitaker

  • Lightweight, fast drying performance ready COOLwick mini mesh
  • UPF +40 protection on the brim and front panel
  • Pliable brim for easy packability
  • Reflective detailing on the front and back for night run visibility
  • Ciele Athletics Million Miles Guarantee
  • New Fast Fit. 56.5cm in diameter and a lower crown
  • Weight 54 grams

I love this hat. I mean, I loved the original GOCap too which I have in both ‘Chaka’ and ‘Jasper’ colours, so I couldn’t wait to try this shallower lightweight model. The main differences between this and the GO are really construction and fit. It’s like a cross between a running hat and a bike cap. For me personally, that works. As a result of the lower crown I found you gotta tighten it up more than the GO which you can let perch a little more… but that’s sort of the point. Designed to sit higher on ya brow it’s a little less steezy and a little more wheezy. So strap in and run FAST.

You know what it ain’t just this hat, I love Ciele. They get that running product is not just about brand it’s about lifestyle. They explain features in simplistic terms rather than bombarding you with jargon. Eg UPF40? ‘So you don’t burn’. Got it. They get that running is a lifestyle. They document via social who wears their hats, what races they are competing in and why their choice of headwear is Ciele. They keep a journal, they keep in touch, they listen to feedback. Oh and if you ain’t satisfied they will repair, replace or refund because they recognise that if you offer your custom they should offer something in return. They want your purchase to last, be your go to. And if (for some reason) you don’t find yourself using it anymore ‘reinvent it, donate it, trade it or recycle’. Oh oh oh and I already mentioned their use of social is on fleek well, guess what, for music lovers they’ll also put a mix together for you! Like this – POW.

The catch? Our buddies at Ciele are in Montreal so you gotta pay a freight charge of $10 bringing the price of a FASTCap to $55. You’re looking at £30something after airmail. I think it’s worth it. But up to you reader! You wanna go get a nondescript keep the sun off my scalp sweatshop special then that’s your prerogative. Or you could support independent business, get your playlist sorted, have your hat guaranteed for a million miles and join a super cool global network of runners. Oh yeh and your garms will absolutely be on point. So go get your FASTCap and we’ll see you on the road!  

#cieleathletics
#everybodyrun
http://www.cieleathletics.com

Core Values

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I own a number of pairs of running shoes. Like 20 pairs maybe at last count? And it’s not even like I’m a hoarder. I’ve thrown em away if they’ve gone dead and given em away if they haven’t fit me properly (you know that thing when you’re in the shop and the sales guy is like ‘hey man take em for a ride, we got a treadmill or you can run outside…’ and you’re like ‘naaa I’ll just take em’). I think I’ve maybe purchased 50 pairs of running shoes in the last 4 years. I read about running shoes a lot. An awful lot. I look at data cos I’m a nerd. I’m genuinely interested in minimalism vs maximalism when it comes to shoe construction and stack height. I want to know what the heel-toe drop is in shoes I think I am going to buy, dang even shoes I ain’t gonna buy. I once went on nike.com and had a 45 minute discussion with Carlos on the online chat. Wow. But I am starting to have an epiphany. What if it doesn’t matter what shoe you wear? So long as they fit (as in you can stick your foot in them and they don’t fall off or cut off the circulation after 10 miles) then does it make any difference what’s on your feet? Like, really? I mean some people enjoy running barefoot. Some people strap on HOKA’s shoes and they look like blocks of polystyrene. Is there really a best case scenario when it comes to footwear? Or are there more important factors at play when it comes to running, efficiency and injury prevention?

Let me just quickly elaborate on this point by taking a cross section of the worlds best runners. The Tarahumara people of Northern Mexico, made famous by Chris McDougall’s book ‘Born to Run,’ are renowned for their ability to run long distances. They are currently sporting make shift sandals made out of rawhide or car tires. Aspiring marathon runners in Kenya, training with the elite of road and track, often do not have enough money to purchase the next pair of ‘top of the line’ running shoes whilst also trying to feed a family. As a result, they often train in hand me downs or charity donated shoes. Lastly, pro Ultra marathon runners competing around the world in distances of 50k and more. Some of these leading lights are running in said maximally cushioned HOKA shoes – take for example Sage Canaday, I mean he is Getting. It. Done!

What do all of these athletes have in common when it comes to footwear? Nothing. So what other discerning characteristics do they possess other than they all are naturally or nurturally (i made that word up I think) super talented? Well, since we are taking shoes out of the equation, there are pretty much three physiological factors that are important when it comes to performance – VO2 max, lactate threshold and running economy or efficiency. The first two of these factors are to do with aerobic / biological capability and can be sustained or increased through effort (albeit there is an argument that you either have it or you don’t, i.e. ‘the genes’). However when it comes to economy this is very much something which has to be learnt, altered, engineered, tweaked. We are talking about the mechanics of movement, efficiency of form and hence effort exerted and energy used. Our Tarahumara, Kenyan and Ultra running friends all undeniably run with supreme efficiency and therefore economy; ergo are able to run faster, for longer and often avoiding injury resulting from poor biomechanics. 

But how do you run with biomechanical economy and what is good form? Efficient running comes not just from how you use your legs but rather your whole body to achieve control, stability, equilibrium. If we look at elite athletes they move gracefully, each step mimicking the last, seamlessly harnessing speed and effort without strain. An education in balance, pose and drive. Importantly, the whole body achieves this forward motion. Hips, core, arms, abdominals, obliques, deltoids. They achieve leg drive whilst keeping the chest high, the head up, the upper body relaxed tall and upright, hips level, a slight lean forward without hunching over. Think of it like this, the legs (muscles, joints, ligaments etc) support the body’s weight. If the body becomes tired and/or imbalanced, the stress on the legs becomes greater due to the need to ‘right’ these imbalances to allow us to continue moving forward. This inevitably will lead to injury. Imbalanced hips, too much lean, rolling shoulders, over striding are often the root cause of mobility injuries in the lower body – ITB (thigh), PFPS (knees), MTSS (shins). Our legs, feet, joints are designed to support forward motion indefinitely but only when the rest of the body is strong enough to follow.

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The advice I often give to friends and family new to running is to run from your middle, your core. Think of yourself as a puppet, held up with strings attached not just to the legs but to the head, shoulders, hips. Keep upright, look ahead, lean slightly and all of a sudden you are running with gravity and natural propulsion, not relying on your legs to carry you forward. This is proper form. To maintain this it is important to stay strong through your core, through your hips. This has to be trained. Below is an example of a workout that my buddy Mikey sent me (just click the image to go to the video). It’s only 15 minutes long, so easily incorporated into your day, but the benefits will be long lasting. When I first got hold of this video I found the exercises pretty hard going. Similarly the number of experienced runners I’ve sent this to and received back the response ‘it’s a killer!’ or ‘intense!’ sort of surprised me. This work out focusses on all of the muscle groups that I have highlighted as imperative to maintaining form and thus running economy. So either the work out is too strenuous or rather runners (me included) too often neglect the work that needs to be put in to maintain core strength and good posture.

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Of course there are a number of factors which contribute to staying healthy when running. But to all runners, new and experienced, I can’t begin to stress enough the importance of form and training the body (the WHOLE body) before you start thinking about lacing up for a marathon. I’m becoming increasingly unsure as to whether gait, heel stack, structure is really all that important. What is imperative is knowing whether your body is strong enough to support itself. Do you slouch, can you drive with your arms, can you stay upright for a long period of time? Most importantly can you maintain good posture during a sustained period of effort? Because if you can’t it doesn’t matter what you are shod in, your hips, knees and ankles are going to have to start doing the extra support work when you start leaning, toppling, reaching, bending incorrectly. My new view? Let’s start teaching FORM first then FIT. A shoe is never going to change your form or enable you to run efficiently. It will just lessen the damage of running incorrectly. It takes hard work not good shoe advice to achieve performance! Go preach!

N.b. I am neither scientist nor physiologist. Just a runner with experience and a view which I wanted to share. I hope it helps! All comments, questions and (of course) compliments, as always, warmly welcomed! 

DOPE.

I love running. But we need to talk about doping.

Above you saw a brief video of my friend Wesley Korir having a chat with Al Jazeera TV. I love Wes and I love what he is saying here. Basically we want to outlaw it. Anyone who is caught should go to jail. That Kenya needs to protect it’s reputation by staying clean. But how do you catch the perpetrators? How many are out there? And if drugs are easily available over the counter, how many runners aren’t as concerned as our buddy Boaz Kiplagat as to the ethical dilemma and are willing to take this ‘shortcut’? This video raises as many questions as it answers… let’s maybe see if we can get to the bottom of some of them.

The president of the IAAF, Lamine Diack, in this interview with the BBC, states that he is “convinced that the majority of our athletes are clean”. He says he is shocked at the claim by former Russian discus thrower Yevgeniya Pecherina in a recent documentary made for German broadcaster ‘Das Erste’ that “most, the majority, 99%” of Russian athletes use banned substances. That he is absolutely sure that the ‘majority’ of athletes are clean. But he then goes on to speak of organised cheating, which he doesn’t refute exists. And when pushed on this he makes a worrying statement; “our athletes are 90%-95% clean”. So is this a contradiction? Or are we quibbling over 4%-9% of competitors? And is this important?

What if 1 of 10 athletes on the start line are using a performance enhancing drug? In a sport where minutes, seconds, milliseconds can mean the difference between being on the podium… or not. Between a sponsorship deal… or not. Between making an Olympic, World Championship or National team… or not. Let’s look at some facts Monsieur Diack. Below are the rules. The rules readily accessible on the IAAF website. There are 10 of them. All are written over the course of two pages of the IAAF Anti-Doping & Medical code.

Rule 32

2) The following constitute anti-doping rule violations: 

(a) Presence of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers in an Athlete’s Sample
(b) Use or Attempted Use by an Athlete of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method
(c) Evading, Refusing or Failing to Submit to Sample Collection
(d) Whereabouts Failures
(e) Tampering or Attempted Tampering with any part of Doping Control
(f) Possession of a Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method
(g) Trafficking or Attempted Trafficking in any Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method
(h) Administration or Attempted Administration of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method
(i) Complicity
(j) Prohibited Association

This is an overview, but they are pretty clear. As is the list explaining what a prohibited substance might be. Fairly self explanatory. So if the list of rules is two pages long, how long is the list of athletes currently suspended from all competitions following an anti-doping violation (as of January 2015)? 26 pages. We’re talking over 300 athletes. And these are just those who have been caught. I don’t know what percentage this constitutes, but clearly athletics is facing a crisis. The reason it bothers me, the reason we should care, is because doping is becoming endemic and the very fabric of the sport is in question here, it’s ideologies. In the same way that cycling has had to weather a storm of irreversible reputational damage as a result of doping, athletics is now encountering the same.

I now question performances of athletes, many of whom I look up to and inspire my own running.

April 2014, the Boston Marathon. I was wowed by Meb Keflezighi’s winning performance. In the same race, Rita Jeptoo (the subject of the above video) broke the course record ahead of Buzunesh Deba (who also came in under the course record) in 2:18:57. She then went on to win Chicago in the same year thus bagging $500,000 to boot by taking top spot in the World Marathon Majors. Both were convincing runs. Too convincing. She subsequently tested positive for EPO, the $500k on ice for now…

September 2014, Diamond League meeting in Brussels. Justin Gatlin wins the 100m in 9.77. He then follows this up an hour later, eyes still bulging, to win the 200m in 19.71. He demolished both fields. You want to be wowed at athletics meetings like the Diamond League, and Gatlin did just that. The problem being though that the guy has a chequered past having previously served a 4yr ban for doping offences…

December 2014, the European Cross Country Championships in Samokov, Bulgaria. I sat gob smacked during the men’s U23 race as three Russian athletes stormed off the front and took a 1,2,3… they obliterated the field. They looked like machines. There was snow and slush underfoot, it was a hard course. The two GB athletes who came in 4 and 5, out of the medals, got nowhere near. It turns out athlete 3, Vladimir Nikitin, had returned from a doping ban but 5 months earlier…

These are races I chose to watch, to be inspired by. But I came away from each wondering if I’d watched three amazing performances or three runs of dubious nature. Looking at the faces of defeated athletes – Buzunesh, Team GB, Tyson Gay (not so much him!) – is difficult, seeing the pain of having prepared mentally, tactically, physically only to be walloped. And you start wondering if you are watching someone at the top of their game or someone in Diack’s 5%-10%… Don’t even get me started on London Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova paying £350k to Russian Athletic Officials to cover up her own doping scheme. On why Mo Farah is out training in Ethiopia with banned athlete Hamza Driouch (3:50 mile aged 17…). I could go on. But then we’d be here a while. You want some more examples, pick up Athletics Weekly and they do a little column of brief news about various marathon winners an track athletes getting caught. This month, for example, featured Julia Mombi winner of the last Cologne Marathon. It’s not even front page news now.

But it should be. It is a problem. A major one. I run a lot and know that until you reach the top level, it is all about personal bests. It’s about bettering yourself. But the problem here is that when personal bests become competitive, a world lead, might win a race, money, then the sport becomes murkier. And that’s a real shame. That participants feel that they can (or have to) cheat. That they can beat the controls or in some cases, just get caught wait two years and then compete again. It’s disheartening to think that something which can bring so much personal satisfaction can be tainted like that. That I can toe the line of a major marathon with elite athletes is a supreme feeling and fairly unique to the sport. But knowing that I’ve trained and dedicated 16 weeks of my life to be duped from the start by someone who might go on and win dirty?

The good news? Our friend Diack is about to step aside at the IAAF, likely to be succeeded by Sebastian Coe. In his pitch for IAAF presidency, aired over 5 days on running blog letsrun.com, Seb said something I felt was quite simple and yet quite profound. ‘It’s absolutely vital that people believe in our sport’. ‘It’s absolutely vital that people believe in our sport.’ I couldn’t agree more. I don’t want the last 5 years of my running life to be associated with a sport where people have cheated their way to the top. Where we talk to our grandkids about the performances of our athletes in the Olympics, the Boston Marathon, the Diamond League only for them to say ‘yeh sure pops, but everyone was cheating back then, right?’. 

So let’s keep it simple. Let’s trust the sport, let’s support it, celebrate it. If anyone wants to ruin that celebration they can leave, go do something else, go buddy up with Lance and do whatever it is he’s got going on these days. But the first step is that we have to accept that it’s happening and talk about it. Whether you finished your last marathon 5 minutes or 5 hours behind the winner doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we want idols, not hate figures. Let’s run hard, run clean and run together. That’d be dope.

Nike Zoom Streak 3 – Relic or Real Deal?

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‘What are they?!’

I’d returned to London from New York having run the 2014 marathon and was watching highlights of Kipsang and Desisa. I’d heard they’d had a bit of a duel racing into the finish line, an exciting culmination to what had been a difficult race in blustery conditions. Being the nerd I am, I was ignoring Tim Hutchings babbel about low arm carry and ‘taking it to each other’. I was watching Desisa. And all I was thinking was ‘what are on his feet?’. I knew Kipsang was wearing adidas adios boost 2 – in the build up adidas had made a fairly big deal of it as they had Dennis Kimetto break the world record in the same shoe 5 weeks earlier – but what the hell was Lelisa wearing?! Even in a close up on the podium I was still clutching at straws. As a convert from adidas to Nike, following (in my opinion) the disastrous switch from soling the Adios with ‘Boost’ instead of ‘Adiprene’, I’d been wearing the Nike Flyknit Racer on the assumption that was Nike’s go to marathon shoe. But this footage was evidence to the contrary… time for some investigative shoe journalism.

Soon after I stumbled on the following article from Sneaker Report. It documents the first 100 shoes that crossed the line that day. I came to find that the shoe Desisa had worn to 2nd place was the Nike Zoom Streak 3. 3? A few months earlier I had purchased the Zoom Streak 5 as a possible alternative to the Flyknit Racer. So why was he running in the 3? It turned out he wasn’t the only one. Stephen Kiprotich, 5th, also wore the shoe. 13th and 14th place Biranhu Kemal and Micah Kogo… that’s 4 of the top 20 in the men’s race! The same for the women, 7th place Firehiwot Dado and 10th place Buzunesh Deba wearing the ZS3. There were a few Zoom Streak 4’s and 5’s on display but mostly it was the older Zoom Streak 3 shoe that Nike athletes were wearing that day…

Maybe this was a trend thing I thought. Or maybe, if it was the Zoom Streak that Nike were having their athletes wear, they’d had a production problem with the 5’s. And the 4’s. And had to dish out some of the last pairs of 3’s they’d managed to find in time for the race? Unlikely. I dug a little deeper. Turns out the year before Sneaker Report conducted the same study. Low and behold for both the men’s and women’s race 3 of the top 10 finishers, 6 of 20 athletes, were in the Zoom Streak 3! So no fluke.

It seems for a number of years whilst other manufacturers have had athletes wear the latest incarnation of a racing shoe, the go to amongst Nike sponsored long distance runners has remained the Zoom Streak 3. Not taking my word for it? More evidence needed? Here’s a list, an impressive one, of top marathoners who have remained loyal to the shoe: Tsegaye Kebede, Dickson Chumba, Ayele Abshero, Stanley Biwott, Wesley Korir, Rita Jeptoo, Priscah Jeptoo, Florence Kiplagat… So what is the shoe all about, where has it come from, how does it differ from the latest version and why are Nike and it’s athletes sticking with it?

Thank you John from Nike Running! This vid is likely an indication of when elite runners received a pair, April 2009, nearly 6 years ago! It still uses Nike Zoom Air technology in the sole (conceived by Nike in 1995), it weighs 6.7oz (about 180g), stack height is 30mm-18mm heel to forefoot, a 12mm differential. OK, great, but nothing has changed in the newer versions 4 and 5. Same sole, same stack height, roughly the same weight… So what’s the difference? Why are these top athletes still wearing the 2010 shoe rather than the 2015 update?

Well I thought, as I own the Zoom Streak 5 (see review) why not procure a pair of the Zoom Streak 3 and find out. Easier said than done… online retailers in UK? Nope. US? Nope. eBay? Nope. Nike directly? Nope. 3 months went past and I nearly gave up all hope. Then I was lucky enough to stumble upon a pair of the shoes at a store in London. Apparently when moving premises they had found some old stock. Not only that but they had my size. And only for £56! So finally I can now make the comparison.

Weirdly perhaps, given the similarities noted above, the shoe does run differently. The first noticeable change is the upper, a firmer see-through mesh in the ZS3 as opposed to the softer engineered mesh on the ZS5. This brings two benefits to the ZS3 in my opinion. Firstly the shoe offers a little more rigidity – one of the criticisms I had with the ZS5 was that the foot would slip because the upper material is so soft, the new ‘Flywire’ technology offering no saving grace here… Secondly, the ZS3 has sort of a midfoot torsion system which is missing on the ZS5. This makes the shoe a little less flexible but at the same time makes the ride firmer, perhaps providing a little more ‘pop’. And erm that’s about it. But it does feel different! For whatever reason the Zoom Streak 3 feels more responsive. True it doesn’t ‘disappear’ on your foot, you have to lace it up properly and there is no heel counter so it can also feel like it’s slipping at the back. But maybe because of that it feels more… I don’t know, authentic? Most of all, it feels hard and fast. Winner for me.

What’s clear is that the Zoom Streak 3 is the go to shoe for Nike marathoners and Nike are happy keeping it that way. Whether this is based on athlete feedback, as above, I don’t know. Maybe they generate enough revenue from other shoes they retail so as not to be reliant on their elite athletes getting them ‘shoe specific sales’, who knows. I offer this supposition as a comparison to the adidas business model. The original adidas Adios in which Gebrselassie (v1) and Makau (v2) broke the world record was actually a super successful shoe and in fact quite similar to the Zoom Streak 3 in construction – racing flat, hard EVA platform, super breathable and lightweight mesh upper, similar midsole offset. But adidas retired the shoe in favour of the Boost. No doubt the Boost is having it’s own successes, Kipsang and Kimetto following adidas tradition of breaking world records in Boost v1 and v2 respectively. But adidas do seem super reliant on their elite athletes promoting the shoe and ‘new technologies’ to drive sales. I personally am an advocate of the natural feeling your body receives when foot striking. You get that with the original Adios. You don’t get it with the Boost. Which is why, in my opinion, adidas shouldn’t have turned their back on what was for me a winning formula. You know what other shoe you get that natural feeling, that feedback from… the Nike Zoom Streak 3…

Some deliberation and mileage is going to have to go toward deciding whether I run my next marathon in my new (old) Zoom Streak 3’s. The Nike Flyknit Racer, which I’ve marathoned in twice, has a similar profile. Namely it’s a firm racing flat, capable of marathon distance, with a super lightweight breathable upper. Maybe I should stick to what I know. But having said that I think the ZS3’s, whilst offering a little more underfoot, do have that ‘pop’ that maybe the FKR doesn’t… And to be fair if Tsegaye and Wesley have stuck with the same shoe for 5 years there must be something to say for them. That’s maybe the real ‘boost’ of confidence I need to take them on.  

New Balance Indoor & Millrose Games

NBIGP

Last weekend saw the start of the track season with the 20th meet of the IAAF Indoor, now known as the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, at The Reggie Lewis (remember him?!) Track & Athletic Centre in Roxbury, Massachusetts. This is a quick recap of the meet followed by a preview for the New York Road Runner’s Millrose Games at Armory, New York City which takes place next weekend.

OK so I don’t really do sprinting. If you want full results then take a look at the NBIGP site and browse, but for a recap on the highlights for me – 1k, 1m and 3k… here goes!

The 1,000m saw Nike Oregon Project’s Matt Centrowitz take 1st in an all US field in 2:17 (beating the meet record in the process). In the women’s race, stable mate Treniere Moser took the win ahead of track starlet Mary Cain (also OP) in a world lead time of 2:37. Cain only finished 1 second behind Moser but admitted she was only feeling 90% coming into the meet; should be a good match up at future events.

The New Balance Men’s Mile was probably one of the highlights with winner Nick Willis breaking the meet record, an indoor pb and NZ national record in 3:51:61. That’s quick. He dragged round American Ben Blankenship (great run/beard) to 2nd, as well as super fast Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco who finished 3rd.

The New Balance Women’s Two Mile race was a US v ETH affair with Jenny Simpson continuing her Diamond League winning form of 2014 and taking the win by a margin of 9 seconds over Ethiopians Ejigu and Diriba in 2 and 3. Oh and she broke a 13yr US national record for 2m in the process.

The men’s 3k saw a stella field of best of US plus Dejen Gebremeskel; the Ethiopian narrowly taking the win, finishing in 7:48:19 with the next three athletes – Bernard Lagat, Hassan Mead and Will Leer – also crossing the line in 7:48 and missing out on a win by tenths. The evergreen Lagat, now 40, showed he can still mix it with the best, demolishing the masters record by 13 seconds and also declaring his intention to run the 5k at the World Championships in Beijing in August.

Unfortunately highlights are hard to find for licensing reasons. So post race comments below from Centrowitz, Moser, Cain, Willis, Simpson, Lagat et al below. Just hit the playlist tab in the top left of the preview to hear from your athlete of choice! Thanks to letsrun.com for your awesome reporting at the event!

I for one now can’t wait for the Millrose Games which takes place next Saturday, February 14. With many of the protagonists above featuring, the fields in NYC are stacked. Here’s a preview of who is competing but click through on icon below which will take you to the NYRR site.

NYRR MG

Men’s NYRR Wanamaker Mile
Centrowitz, Cheserek, Lagat, Leer, Jager, Willis, Manzano, O’Hare (GO CHRIS!!!)

Women’s NYRR Wanamaker Mile
Cain, Rowbury, Hasay, Moser, Clarke (GO ROSIE!!!)

Men’s Paavo Nurmi 5k
Levins, Hill, Bumbalough, Lomong, Tegenkamp, Farrell (GO TOM!!!)

Women’s 3k
Hall, Kipyego, Saina, Avery, Yates (GO KATE AND LUCY!!!)

***UPDATE*** And now check out the video from our buddies at Flotrack of Will Leer, Nick Willis (and cameos from Mav Darling, Hassan Mead, Tom Farrell) training for the event. Mad work out in Flagstaff at altitude for all you trackheads to try out!

A message to me about miles and motivation

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After my run yesterday I updated my dailymile site – think Strava – and noted that I’d hit 4,000 miles of running. I created the account on the day I started running, 18th February 2011. Nearly 4 years ago. Time, thought I, for some reflection as to what running has offered and whether it has changed me. I mean, I’ve quit the ciggies. Lost some weight. Got the medals which have made up for the sore legs. But I’m still doing it? So unless I’m simply a glutton for punishment, it must have had, and be having, some other effect. Been doing some other sort of good? Right?

According to dailymile it’s taken 516 hours to run 0.16 times around Earth. Not quite sure what that means. Or how it’s worked out for that matter. Math has never been an arrow in my quiver. But figuratively as well as literally it’s true that running has taken me around the world. Whenever I have travelled to a race I have always tried to tag on some sort of cultural immersion (well apart from Milton Keynes maybe, no offence to MK but a sightseeing tour of roundabouts and overpasses didn’t appeal). I’ve visited places I never would have previously thought of venturing, Lisbon, Copenhagen… Milton Keynes come to think of it. That’s one of the great things about running. It get’s you out there. Not just of your own front door, but into the world at large. You also realise how running can break down borders and preconceptions. Anyone who has been to a pre-race expo abroad and feels the camaraderie between fellow runners, irrespective of nationality, religion, can vouch for this. So it brings people together and you get to explore the world. But to be fair you maybe don’t have to go running. You could just get an Easyjet and fly to these places rather than endure 26 miles of tarmac when you get there. Sounds a bit silly come to think of it… why else then?

I have apparently burned 116 pounds in 636 workouts. There the sort of numbers I used to find motivational. When I started running. I revelled in documenting how many miles I’d clocked (maybes I still do a bit given numbers prompted this post), how much faster I could go (and actually yeh I still get a kick from personal bests). Similarly it’s true that I did want to tone up some parts of the anatomy which had accumulated mass after several years of partying too hard. I don’t think I was alone in what I thought were the preeminent reasons for my lifestyle change. Erm what’s my point here? A common motivator that people have when starting out is health and image. Which is wholly justified. But now hearing the number of times I’ve laced up sounds a bit weird and probably doesn’t account for the other times I’ve just got out there and run without a watch. On the contrary weight loss and number of workouts aren’t everyones motivation to begin with. And, in fact, I quickly found that it wasn’t my main driver either.

More importantly I got out there. The success wasn’t what the change brought it was that I was able to make the change in the first place. It was psychological. The biggest health benefit running still brings me is psychological; release, clarity of thought. Running is about all sorts of self confidence, not just to do with image and competition. Sure I’ve given up fags and am a bit lighter. But actually what I’ve gained, what I’ve learnt, has been the bigger takeaway. Application, determination, resolve. And in getting ‘out there’, I’ve seen and met other people with their own story. Other runners who inspire by having their own goals and work hard to better themselves for different reasons, their own reasons; after all humans are a sensitive species and can only draw from a certain amount of self fulfilment before we recognise that we also benefit from charity, companionship, support. Running has been the vehicle through which I hear these messages, that commonality.

Speaking of who I’ve run with, from the image used in this post, and the subject matter of others, you’d think I was sponsored by Nike… I’m not. But the crew I run with are supported by them. And I think Nike support them because, believe it or not, they get that running is about something other than looking good whilst pounding pavement, hitting times and winning races. All those things are motivational, sure. But success comes in forms other than medals and numbers. It’s about psychological well being and positivity. Put your mind to something, anything, as running demonstrated for me, and you can ‘earn it’. Running has made me a stronger person mentally and that is why I still run. To be a better person, not just a fitter person.

 

But yeh I did run 4,000 miles in 4 years. That too. <smiley face>.