My barefoot-running brother-in-law

At well over 6ft, often running barefoot with a Rhodesian ridgeback and child or two in tow, my brother-in-law, Georg, is hard to miss. This axe-wielding, Thai boxing, trail running father of three has always inspired me, not only with his ability to push through a marathon no matter what, but also in how he takes new sporting challenges in his (incredibly long) stride, while juggling a hectic family life and a successful career in dentistry.

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He and my big sister have been together since they were 16, so he has been pretty much a permanent fixture of my adult life. We both fell in love with running at around the same time and still remember proudly completing our first sub-30 minute 5km together. He has dragged me to many a Park Run and, although he subsequently admitted to wanting to kill me at the time, I was so proud to help get him to the end of the killer Potters Marathon a couple of years back. I love when we have a chance to run and chat together and I wanted to share a little bit about him here. If you ever thought that you were too busy to run, read on!

When did you first start running?

Probably when I was about 15 months old, I’ll check with my mom, ha ha! But seriously, I use to run to make weight for Thai boxing fights. To begin with I hated every second of it, but slowly the miles crept up until one day I decided to sign up for the Potters ‘Alf marathon. After running that I felt an awesome sense of achievement and I continued on from there.

Was running something that came naturally or did you have to work at it?

It was a bit of both really. Once I reached a certain level of fitness (which, because of Thai boxing didn’t take too long) I felt like I was unstoppable and could keep running (albeit slowly) forever.

What do you enjoy about getting out for a run?

Running is a good time to just switch off. I tend to overthink things and to keep my emotions hidden. When I run I find I can turn off the overactive part of my brain and also the part that suppresses my emotions. That means that I often find myself running late at night laughing, crying and blankly staring into space.

When and why did you start running barefoot?

When I was a kid in South Africa, we ran barefoot everywhere. In primary school in SA you don’t wear shoes in summer and all sports, including rugby, are played barefoot. But then I became a fat, angry teenager in the UK and when I eventually tried to run I was told I needed all kinds of special shoes to do so. The problem was that  they just made my feet hurt. I remember very well one day in North Yorkshire taking my trainers off and hiking up Carlton bank barefoot and loving every second. Soon after that I bought my first pair of five finger shoes for particularly rough terrain.

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What is your proudest running achievement?

This tends to change every time I do another stupid run somewhere! To date it is probably trying to do the Born to Run Ultra Marathon in Wales few years back. Even though I was pulled out at 35 miles into the 40 mile run, I still ran a lot further than I ever imagined. I’ve found from running and fighting that you tend to learn a lot more about yourself when you losing rather than winning.

What was going through your mind during those 35 miles and how did you keep yourself going?

For the first half of the race I was mostly thinking about my family. For the second it was a mixture of thinking about how worried wife would be if I didn’t make it to next water station and paranoia of being followed buy a strange man (who actually turned out to be a St Johns ambulance guy who was following me as I was talking to myself and covered in my own sick!)

Would you do another ultra?

100 per cent yes! As soon as I stop having more children and get time to do the proper training!

Do you do any form of cross training?

I spend some time doing circuits in gym, I still go Thai boxing when I get time and I love swimming and cycling outdoors in the summer (but I hate both in the winter!)

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How do you fit in your runs around having three energetic children and two dogs?

I try to combine parental duties with running, but it’s not always easy. I recently had dog attached to a running buggy with baby in it, a 6 -year-old running next to me, and a 4-year-old on my neck. I only managed 2km before I almost died! In seriousness, I try to do some runs with the kids; most of my training runs are done with dog and or baby in running buggy. It also helps that I have an awesome understanding wife who doesn’t mind me going out running.

How do you find running with a buggy and a dog?

I love it. It only gets tricky when there are lots of people in our way. The dog loves it and the baby loves it.

What running buggy do you use?

I have an Out n About fixed wheel running buggy. It’s very well used now; it probably done a few hundred miles!

 

IMG_7872Any tips for parents running with buggies?

Make sure your baby is old enough to sit while supporting their own head; make sure they are comfortable; take lots of snacks (for the baby) just in case; and be prepared to sing to keep the child amused!

What races have you got coming up?

The only thing booked so far for this year is the Potters ‘Alf marathon, but I’m hoping to do a few triathlons and open water races in the summer. It’s all a bit last minute with having young kids!

 

I’m looking forward to running together again on holiday in May (although I may only be waddling by then!) and to learning more from him about managing to run once our little lady arrives in August. Until my next, happy running.

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Eat and Run

Eat and Run book jacketWith marathon training demanding five runs a week, the longer ones of which are further than I’ve trained at before, I have to admit that it’s taken rather a lot of mental grit keep on top of my training plan this week.

Luckily whenever I feel myself flagging I can boost my motivation by just picking up a book. For Christmas I was given Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run and I have been devouring it ever since.

Jurek is an ultramarathon-running vegan and Eat and Run is his compelling and engaging journey ‘to ultramarathon greatness’.

Jurek’s resolve that there is always time to run – that if you want to improve as a runner, you have to carve out time in your day for it – is inspiring.

His determination to run and finish races despite broken toes and seriously sprained ankles, dehydration, intense heat, nausea, vomiting and a whole panoply of other obstacles and ailments is incredible (if not a little insane).

But then it is that insanity and unflinching dedication that makes Jurek such an amazing athlete.

More than this, Jurek lives running. This is clear from the way his diet has evolved, from junk-food eating carnivore to raw-food vegan, and how he uses his diet to fuel his gruelling running habit.

His readings of Percy Cerutty and Herbert Elliot also attest to a philosophy which underpins his running and his desire for self improvement. He quotes from them: from Elliott, ‘Let’s become more compassionate, let’s become bigger, let’s become stronger, let’s become nicer people’; and from Cerutty, ‘you only ever grow as a human being if you are outside your comfort zone’.

While I run, I think of the advice, given to him by his friend ‘Hippy Dan’ on connecting with your surroundings and his reflections on running intuitively, being aware of your body – what it needs, how to adjust your stride and cadence to respond to twinges or pain.

Jurek reflects on the ‘beautiful thing of barefoot running…working with your body’s natural…ability to sense your own position in space’ and getting ‘immediate sensory feedback with every step.’

‘But whether you wear shoes or go barefoot, what is important is that you pay attention to your form. If running barefoot helps with that, then it’s beneficial.’ 

He also notes that while there is value in tracking and monitoring progress using various technical devices, there is also value in keeping it simple: ‘If you want to win, get out there and train, and then train some more!’

Jurek’s story is inspiring and his motivation and drive incredible.

I’d recommend this book to anyone wanting a bit of running inspiration and who doubts what the human body can achieve when primed and fuelled properly.

Happy Mondays

As Mondays go, today has been pretty good.

I have made it tradition to take the first working Monday of the year as holiday to let myself reset and prepare for another year of ‘getting stuff done’.

I started the day with the long run from my marathon training schedule that I should have done yesterday, but which I had delayed due to illness.

After three days of being stuck in bed I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to manage it, but inspired by my new book Eat and Run about ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek, I felt that chickening out of 11 miles was pretty poor show. So I had a cup of coffee, got my trainers on and hit the road, along with R, who has now agreed that it’s probably a good time to start marathon training (three weeks after I began).

We ran a lovely route along the canal to Regent’s Park, around the park and back again, bang on 11 miles. I felt pretty weary and a little faint if I’m honest, but the main thing for me was to get out and run the miles.

It was actually the longest purely training run I’ve ever done, so despite my gentle pace I actually felt pretty proud of myself.

We followed the run with a brunch (actually more like lunch as it was after 1pm) consisting of a big bowl of porridge and some crumpets with peanut butter.

The Running Works - cafe and trainers
The Running Works – cafe and trainers

Before Christmas R had spotted a new independent running shop that had opened in the City back in November, but which we hadn’t had a chance to visit. With an afternoon free and with his birthday on the approach we decided to head down to check it out.

The store, The Running Works, was well worth a trip. With super friendly and lovely, helpful staff I was successful in treating R to a new pair of ON trainers, a Swiss brand that neither of us had encountered before, but which were well-suited to R’s forefoot running style.

They also had a lovely cafe, which offered us a free drink with our purchases, and again where the staff were really accommodating and friendly.

The Running Works - clothes
The Running Works – clothes

There was also a sports massage and physio room and they are also going to hold yoga classes, which will be starting next Wednesday from 7am-8am and which come with a special breakfast offer in the price.

Definitely worth a visit if you are in London.

We returned home to a wholesome evening of baking vegan banana and pecan bread (which is cooling as I write and which smells delicious!) and making homemade parsnip, squash, courgette and Harissa soup with warm crusty bread.

If the rest of the year continues like this 2015 is going to be pretty damn good and now I feel ready to face my inbox and to take on another productive year of work.

Happy Monday!

For the banana bread:

Ingredients

Vegan banana bread
Vegan banana bread

225g Plain flour (or use Self-raising flour and reduce the Baking powder to 2 heaped tsp)
3 heaped tsp Baking powder
100g Brown sugar
3 tsp Cinnamon or Mixed spice
3 large Black bananas, mashed
75g Vegetable or Sunflower oil (weight)
50g Dried fruit or nuts (optional)

Method

  • Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
  • Mash the peeled bananas with a fork. Mix well with oil and sugar.
  • Add the flour, baking powder and cinnamon, and combine well.
  • Add any additional ingredients.
  • Baked in a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin for 20 minutes, before checking. Cover with foil, if the loaf cake is browning. Bake for another 40 minutes (approximately).
  • Allow to cool a little before slicing.