Running The World: Canada

On Sunday, we head to Canada – the Husband’s IronMan is next Sunday (the 27th). We’re having a few days in Vancouver before heading to Whistler for a full week. It all feels a little surreal but very exciting. So it felt only fitting that today’s Running The World should come from Canada.

We have two interviewees today. The first is Solana who I found via Instagram. Her pictures of trail running in the Vancouver area give me BAD trail envy! She agreed to be part of this and then suggested I also interview her friend Kent who lives on the other side of the country in Niagara Falls. So here you go..what’s like to run in Canada?

Tell us a little about yourselves, in a non-running capacity :)

Solana

Uhhhh me without running, is that possible?  I kid, I kid.  To be honest, running has become such a large part of my life that it’s hard to separate myself completely from it.  I’m 29, live just outside of Vancouver, Canada with my husband and our 2 dogs, Nikita & Guinness.  I work both as the office manager of my parent’s company, a small engineering firm, and as the Race Director for 5 Peaks Trail Races in the Vancouver Region.  I love coffee, sushi, sunshine, the Canucks, and any sort of delicious baked treat (after a long run of course!)  I blog at www.SolanaLeigh.com, mostly about trail running with a dabble of road running, paleo cooking, weight loss (I’ve lost ~50 lbs since my heaviest), and randomly stuff.  I’m pretty boring to be honest!

Solana and her family

Solana and her family

Kent

My name is Kent Keeler. I live with my two kids ( aged 3 & 5) in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I work full time, run a website, and volunteer for an organization called impossible2Possible. When I’m not doing all of that stuff, I run.

Kent!

Kent!

How did you get into running?

 Solana

I started running just over 9 years ago, when some friends of mine convinced me to sign up for our big local 10K, the Vancouver Sun Run.  The Sun Run has about 50,000 runners and walkers in it annually and it’s quite the experience!  I vividly remember how exhausted I was after that race, my first time running 10K, and I basically went straight home and straight to bed!  I couldn’t imagine running farther than that, ever!  But, as time went on, it was obvious that I should never say never.  I ran a handful of half marathons before making the crazy decision to train for my first marathon in the months leading up to my wedding, summer 2011.  Yep, I don’t ever do anything half assed, hah!

My first marathon was HARD, and again I said well that’s the farthest I’ll ever run.  Wrong again!  In 2012, I ran another full marathon, and my first ultra marathon!  After I discovered ultra running and trail running in general, I was hooked.  I barely spend any time on the roads anymore and the crazier the trail adventure we can go on, the better for me.  I absolutely love the feeling of getting just a little bit lost, and knowing vaguely where we are, but not realllllllllly.

Since then, I’ve run another road marathon, so 3 of those, and 7 50K’s, and in December I ran my first (and probably only) 50Miler.  50 miles was a longggggg way, and I think I’m better built and more so enjoy the 50K distance, so that’s where I’ll stay for the time being.  As for my usual running schedule, I run 4-6 days a week, usually minimum 200K/month, and I like to race as much as my body can handle.  I probably race more than the average bear, but I love the drive and push of being in a race and competing, even if I’m just competing with myself, I love that race vibe.

Currently, I’m injured, and have been for the past few months, so my running is on hiatus, and it sucks, but I’ve still been very involved in the back side of running, supporting my friends as they chase goals and reach for their dreams.  Volunteering and cheering at races brings such a pure happy feeling to me, and helps distract me from my own injuries.

Kent

I got into running after my daughter was born (nearly 5 years ago.) I had been a cyclist up until then but found I couldn’t get out for the hours I liked to get in a long ride. With running I could go out for a much shorter time and still get a good workout in. I started out running mainly road, with an initial goal of a half marathon. I have since “evolved” into a focus on trail running at ever increasing ultra distances. I have raced up to 100km, and have my sights set on a 100 Miler this September.

So how popular is running in Canada?

 Solana

It’s hard to comment when you’re so involved in the running world, and feel like everyone around you is a runner.  I know that’s not the case, but I do feel like Vancouver is a very active city, and that more often you find people who enjoy the outdoors, whether it’s running or hiking, or playing some other sort of sport.  I think running has always been around in Canada, but it’s easier to connect with and be involved in the running scene with the way social media brings us all together and allows us to connect with runners all over the country and all over the world.

Kent

Running in Canada seems to be in growth mode. There are more and more races, and new running shops opening regularly. Canada has running history going way back, and seems to follow similar trends to the United States (given our proximity). As a recent adopter of the sport, I’m not super familiar with the history but have definitely seen growth in the 5 years I have been involved. I would say this is across the whole country – there are races all over the place. Obviously some areas take advantage of terrain and have challenging hilly or mountain races, while the larger urban centres all have well attended fast road races.

Solana channelling her inner Katniss through the forest

Solana channelling her inner Katniss through the forest

How do Canadians deal with the brutal winters?

 Solana

I personally don’t find them brutal, but I live in Vancouver, probably the mildest part of Canada, so I don’t think I really count.  I know a lot of runners train inside, and rely on great clothing and gear to get them through the winters.  Some runners go snowshoe running in the winter (it’s way too tough in my opinion!), and other runners just stop running in the winter – it happens, and I think it varies on the personal runner.  I don’t know if I’d ever be able to train for the longer distances on a treadmill, and it doesn’t surprise me that many parts of Canada are “fair weather runners”.  Lucky for me, Vancouver’s climate is quite mild, and we don’t often have snow, or drop below freezing, so I don’t often have to hide indoors during my training.

Kent

There are a couple of options. Many people choose to run indoors on treadmills, or switch to other sports like Nordic skiing. Many of us (me included) will tough it out and stay outdoors as much as possible. I find that as long as you have good gear and clothing, it is normally quite manageable. People will use spikes in the soles of their shoes to ensure better grip in the snow and ice.

Brrr

Brrr

What kind of people are running?

Kent

I would say (from what I see) that it is a balance of men and women participating in running. Depending on the race terrain and distance, there are often equal sized fields. I notice that in the longer trail ultras, there are typically larger men’s fields, but often see larger women’s fields in road and shorter trail races. There are also a number of “women’s only” races in Southern Ontario.

How popular is racing?

Kent

Racing is extremely popular in Canada, and expanding every year. In Southern Ontario where I live, you could likely find a race every weekend without travelling too far. Obviously, most are shorter races, but there are a number of half and full marathons, especially in the spring and fall. They are organized by different bodies, from retailers to race-organizing companies to running clubs. The shorter distances seem to be the most popular, and trail races are really gaining popularity. Of course there are also a rapidly expanding selection of what I would call theme and obstacle races – color runs, obstacle races, mud runs, etc.

The costs range widely from low cost options with little more than a number and water provided (in the $15-20 range for a 5 or 10km race) to high end races with lots of swag, and elaborate setups ($40 and up for a 5km as an example). Each of the major cities have at least one big marathon every year – Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Montreal are the big ones. I am more of a trail runner, and prefer the ultra distances. There are more and more of these every year as well.

What’s your favourite race?

Kent

One of my favourite local ultras that I have done to date would be the Sulphur Springs race in Ancaster, ON. I also really enjoy the 5 Peaks trail running series of races.

Which race would you recommend to a visitor coming to Canada?

Kent

There are a number of incredible races on the west coast that I would recommend, as well as a few in Quebec. One of the races in Canada that I might recommend based on its reputation is the Squamish 50 in BC.

Kent on the trails

Kent on the trails

What trends are taking off?

Kent

Marathon running seems to be constantly growing in popularity. People are no longer content to run 5 or 10km and want the challenge of the longer distance races. Trail running is also growing like crazy, even in the ultra distances.

Trails..

Trails..

Let’s talk a little about trail running. You say it’s growing…

 Solana

I do know, for sure, that Trail Running is growing, and especially ultra marathons.  It’s a bit like the “cool thing to do” right now, and everyone is training for and running ultras, but I think that’s a great thing!  My personal belief is that trail running and ultra running in particular, make us into better people.  The experiences really bring us back to our basics and remind us of the important things in life, while also pushing us to our limits, forcing us to dig down deep and find that inner strength.  I think everyone should run an ultra, just to prove to themselves that they are so much stronger than they think.

Kent

Trail running is very popular, and growing quickly. There are race series across the country (5 Peaks has a number of series’ in different provinces) and there are new individual races popping up all the time. Ultra distance races (which is my main interest) are also growing. Canada now has races in the Skyrunning Race Series made popular in the mountains of Europe and the scene is only going to continue growing. With vast expanses of wilderness, trails, and mountains Canada is the perfect spot for trail running.

Solana takes in the view

Solana takes in the view

What about gear? What gear is popular in Canada at the moment?

Kent

Canada follows a lot of the same trends as the United States, and running is no different. We wear the traditional running brands that are well known, and have followed along in most of the major recent trends (ie: minimalist, barefoot, etc). One difference I see in Canada is less online shopping for running gear. The United States has a few huge, well established online running retailers but Canada does not. I would say this is starting to change, but most purchases are still from bricks and mortar running specialty retailers.

Who are Canada’s running stars?

Kent

On the road the big stars are the marathon runners – Lanni Marchant, Krista Duchene, Reid Coolsaet, Dylan Wykes, Eric Gillis, and Rob Watson (my favourite roadie). On the trails, we have amazing talent like Ellie Greenwood, Gary Robbins, Rob Krar, and Adam Campbell. Adam Campbell came third at Hardrock last weekend despite getting hit by lightning during the race!

(Cat’s note: Ellie Greenwood is British – and awesome –  but we’ll happily share her!)

What do Canadian runners use to fuel and hydrate? Any local specialities?

Kent

We fuel solely on Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts. Kidding, but I can’t really think of anything unique for Canadians. We use a lot of the same hydration and race fuel as anywhere else in the world. Lots of gels, drink mixes, and all the crazy stuff you find at ultra race aid stations.

I could run here...

I could run here…

How important a role does both traditional media and social media play within the Canadian running community?

Kent

Twitter and blogging seems to be synonymous with running in Canada (which I am “guilty” of as well). There are a ton of runners on twitter, and many with their own blogs to share experiences. The big Canadian running magazines would be Canadian Running, iRun, Trail Running Canada (online only), and Get Out There Magazine.

The reward

The reward

If I landed in your city or country, where would you recommend I start if I wanted to find running groups, routes or races?

Kent

To find info about local running groups, routes, and races I would recommend the websites of all of these magazines listed above – they contain a ton of information about running across Canada.

What are the best and worst things about running in Canada?

Kent

For me, the best thing about running in Canada is the vast amount of land we have. It is very easy, even in huge cities like Toronto to find yourself in the woods, running on great trails. You can get out of the city and into some remote wilderness without too much trouble. Across this country you can find almost any type of terrain you might possibly want to run on. We are very lucky runners!

The biggest challenge would be climate. Winters can limit the areas and amount of running. Summers (in Southern Ontario) can be hot and humid which has its own challenges.

Kent, Solana – thank you so much for all your help. You can follow Solana’s blog HERE, she’s on Twitter HERE and on Instagram HERE. Kent can be found on his blog HERE, on Twitter HERE and Instagram HERE!

For more Running the World interviews, click HERE.

Running The World will be taking a break for a few weeks due to our trip to Canada and then my sloping off to Colorado to run a relay! 

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Finally…a post about running

If you missed last Friday’s ‘What to do if you see a scary beast‘ post then read it now! Because at the weekend, when hiking, the Husband and the Dude were hurtling down a trail and they nearly ran straight into this guy.

Just a friendly local rattlesnake

Just a friendly local rattlesnake

He was big, he was equipped with a rattle at the end of his tail. Freeze, listen, retreat! We froze. We listened…no rattling. I remembered something I learned working on that post…that snakes ‘feel’ your presence by vibrations in the earth so we all stomped as hard as we could and slowly, slowly,  he slithered away!

Anyway.

For a running blog, I feel like I haven’t talked very much about running lately! I definitely haven’t talked about training for a LONG time, so it’s nice to write a little update today.

June was definitely NOT a training month. I only ran 52 miles (I usually average 100). They were leisurely, happy miles and I spent most of my time eating, drinking and hanging out with family. Awesomeness! But since I got back, I’ve started training again and it feels really good.  Let me fill you in.

Racing

I’ve actually got some races in the diary to look forward to.

Wild West Relay, Colorado, August 2nd – 3rd

The day after we get back from Ironman Canada, I fly out to Colorado for my first relay. (Let’s take a moment to get excited about me going away BY MYSELF! No boys!!) I’m doing it with the wonderful Bean and Stacy and a bunch of total strangers. We’re running 200 miles between Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs. I have three legs of 7 miles, 7 miles and 4 miles which sounds straight-forward enough but the altitude is high. Along with the altitude, I’m nervous about bear and elk and running through the Rockies alone at night – I shall be head-to-toe decked out in bear bells, carrying my spray, lit up like a Christmas tree and making a lot of noise. It’s an adventure and I’m excited about it, and a little apprehensive too.

Ragnar Napa Valley, Sept 19th – 20th

If you read a lot of Bay Area running blogs, you’ll probably get sick of this race but both the Husband and I are running it along with a whole bunch of amazing runners. I am VERY excited about this! We haven’t sorted out who’s running which leg yet but it should be awesome. If anyone fancies babysitting the Dude, let me know!! :)

Rock n Roll San Jose Half Marathon, Oct 5th

I got a free entry to this race via the friend of a friend and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m not a big fan of Rock n Roll races but the chance to experience one of their races for free is too good to pass up. I’m not planning to RACE this but rather to use it as a final tune up for…

Healdsburg Half Marathon, Oct 12th

My goal race of the Autumn. I hold this course very dear to my heart as it’s where I first went under two hours. I loved the course, its rolling undulations suited me down to the ground! I am hoping to PR. My current PR is 1.52 (with at least a minute to help an injured runner) and so I’m aiming for 1.50. And I’d be lying if I said 1.49 wasn’t something I’m dreaming of although if I’m honest, I think it’s beyond me.

I’d love to fit some trail half-marathons or long runs in between the races just for fun and exploring…I’m spending a little time on race registration sites to see what I fancy!!

Training.

So I’m training again and it feels AWESOME!! My training plan is slightly different from my usual.

  • Doubles….this is my third week of including one day of doubles. I’ve been careful to increase distance slowly and to plod along comfortably on both runs, not pushing the pace. I’ve actually really enjoyed them so far and my legs, whilst a little fatigued, aren’t too shot for the second run. The next morning though, they are sore!!
  • Longer long runs. I was moaning to Jen recently about how 12 milers never seemed to gets easier and she told me they’d feel easier if I was running longer distances. Logical. So I’ll be doing 14 milers for a few weeks before Healdsburg so that psychologically a half marathon feels easier on the day!
  • Alternating slower/faster miles on long runs. I think this really works for me.
  • Longer Tempo runs. My tempo runs have never got beyond 6 miles but they’ll increase to 9 miles nearer race day. I won’t be tempo-ing the whole distance (I’ll have slower miles in the middle) but I think this will help.

All this is obviously dependent on not getting injured and my heart being cool.

Garminning up

I’ve been procrastinating about buying a Garmin for about two years now and a few weeks ago, I finally caved in. I had some money saved up, I’d done some research and I was pretty confident the 220 was what I wanted. Ten minutes with the sales girl and I was sold…and it was sold too.

I will review it properly in a few weeks but, 3 weeks in, I FLIPPING LOVE IT!!! Apart from the first run, I have managed to avoid constantly glancing at my watch to see my pace and checking out the data when I get back is just too brilliant for words.

My first Garmin run. I felt a little pressure to have a decent overall speed.

My first Garmin run. I felt a little pressure to have a decent overall speed.

Audiobooks

I have started listening to audio-books on my runs, inspired by Jen (as ever). It’s been revolutionary. My first book has been ‘A life without limits’ by Chrissy Wellington, the  (British) Ironman World Champion which is clearly apt for this month. I am LOVING the whole audio-book thing but I’m a little surprised at the price of Audible books…anyone got any handy hints on how to get super-cheap audio-books?

Fame

I have an online subscription to the newly relaunched UK Trail Running magazine. Ages ago, they tweeted, asking for photos of readers’ weekend trail runs and it just happened to be the day after our awesome run on San Bruno Mountain so I sent a photo. There was a bit of back and forth with them on email and then I kind of forgot about it. The August edition came out last week and BOOM, there I am in it! Whilst I feel like a bit of a fraud as I am still very much a novice trail runner, I am still ridiculously chuffed to be in it. My parents and family are currently buying up every copy in the UK.

A trail running Maria von Trapp.  Original Photo credit: Jen

A trail running Maria von Trapp.
Original Photo credit: Jen

 

Just in case you were particularly keen to see where I feature on the whole spread :)

Just in case you were particularly keen to see where I feature on the whole spread :)

If you send me a copy, I’ll happily sign it for you :)

This week is one of the busiest weeks of my year – it’s Vacation Bible Camp at church which I volunteer at. It’s awesome and exhausting at the same time. In addition, I’m dog-walking for a friend and we’re getting ready to go to Canada on Sunday! But my training will continue…the fire is back in my belly!!

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Lions and rattlers and bears, oh my!

Last week, in the town next to mine, a mountain lion killed (and ate) a deer. It wasn’t in the forests, it wasn’t in the hills or in a state park where I am psyched for mountain lions. Nope, it was basically in my town, half a mile from my church, in a residential neighbourhood and a block away from the route I’d planned for Thursday’s early morning long run.

I changed my route. And then I got me thinking that if I came up against any of California’s biggest trail running menaces, I would have NO idea how to handle it so I’m putting this post together primarily for my own benefit but hopefully also for yours. I suspect that if I ran round a corner and found any of these beasts, I would freeze in fear and all my knowledge would go straight out of my head…but just in case I hold it together, this is what to do.

As ever, bear in mind that I’m a stay-at-home mum who googled all this content. I’m not Bear Grylls, a doctor, a survival skills expert or anything significant in the field!!

Mountain Lions

Not the kind of cat I like to cross my path.

Not the kind of cat I like to cross my path.

What to remember: Look big, make noise, back away, keep eye contact!

A great website I found said this:

If you do see a mountain lion, no matter how thrilled you are to be one of the very few who gets such an opportunity, stay well back, and take the encounter seriously.

Thrilled? I would POO MY PANTS!!

Apart from involuntary defecation, this is what to do:

  • Stop. Stay well back.
  • Make yourself as large as possible. Never easy when you’re 5’1.
  • Pick up small children without bending down. (This is actually impossible).
  • Open your jacket, raise your arms, wave your arms slowly.
  • Make a lot of noise. Bang, shout. Speak firmly, slowly and loudly.
  • Maintain eye contact with the lion.Never go past it.
  • Throw stones or branches at it without bending down. (!)
  • Back slowly to a spot that gives the lion a chance to get away, without looking away from it for a second. Never turn away.
  • If attacked, fight back. Protect your neck and throat.

Rattlesnakes

Not a rattlesnake, thank goodness!

Not a rattlesnake, thank goodness!

What to remember: Freeze, listen, retreat.

I can’t decide if I’m more scared of  rattlesnakes than mountain lions, but this is how to handle an encounter.

  • Be aware that they’re there. There are often signs up at trail-heads but basically if it’s hot, dry and scrubby, they’re probably there.
  • As such, always look ahead at the trail. Keep your eyes out and not immediately ahead but several feet ahead.
  • If you encounter one…FREEZE, LISTEN, RETREAT!
  • Freeze – stop immediately.
  • Listen – try to work out where the snake is so you don’t accidentally get closer.
  • Retreat – back off the way you came.
  • If possible, give it a wide berth and walk around it. Give it as much space as you can.
  • If they rattle, it’s a warning and you’re too close. Stand stock still and wait till the snake slithers off, which is what they want to do.
  • Warn other people and protect children and pets.

And if it goes wrong and you get bitten?

  • Roughly 25% of bites are dry and non-venemous. But a venomous bite HURTS!
  • Stay calm and seek medical help immediately. Ideally, make your friends carry you to safety. If you have to walk, walk slowly and rest often. An increased heart rate speeds the venom round the body.
  • Immobilise the wound and keep it below heart level.
  • Clean the wound with antiseptic wipes or soap.
  • Don’t cut the wound or suck the poison out. That makes it worse.
  • Remove anything that could restrict swelling – jewellery, watches etc. Don’t use a tourniquet.
  • Rattlesnake bites are curable with medical treatment but you’d die in the next 24 – 48 hours without help. Just so you know.

Bears

There are two types of bears you may come across…the Black Bear and the Grizzly. You deal with them very differently.Thank goodness this is not something we have to deal with in the Bay Area but in the California mountains, there are black bears in them there hills.

Not all bears wear bright red jackets to alert you to their presence.

Not all bears wear bright red jackets to alert you to their presence.

Black Bears

What to remember:  Calm voice, plenty of space, back away. If it goes tits up, play dead.

If you see a black bear:

  • Avoid bears as much as possible by travelling in groups and making plenty of noise as you go. I’m getting bear bells for my Colorado relay in August! Also carry bear spray.
  • Assume the bear is as freaked out as you are and wants to get away. Give him plenty of space to do just that.
  • Don’t climb a tree. Black bears can out-climb you.
  • Stick with your friends to make the group seem larger if possible.
  • Speak in a calm ‘appeasing’ tone. Back away slowly, ideally in the direction you came from. Walk and don’t run, keep watching the bear to see how he reacts. He will probably run off.
  • If attacked, use bear spray when the bear is 20 – 30 feet off. That should work as a deterrent. If not…spray the bear’s eyes, nose and mouth.
  • If the bear attacks,  play dead. Roll onto your stomach, protect your neck and the back of the head with your hands. Keep arms and legs out so the bear can’t flip you. Lie there until you are VERY sure he’s gone. That might be a long time. It will feel much longer.
  • If all else fails, fight. Go for the eyes, nose and face. Hit the bear with whatever’s around.

Info from here.

Grizzly Bears

What to remember: Avoid eye contact, speak calmly, don’t run, climb a tree

  • Avoid encounters by wearing bear bells and making noise.
  • Do not run.
  • Avoid direct eye contact.
  • Back away slowly if the bear is not approaching you.
  • Do not scream or yell. Speak calmly in a ‘monotone’ voice. Get your pepper spray out.
  • If he charges within 25 feet, use your spray.
  • You can climb a tree against a grizzly! They’re not good climbers.
  • If he attacks you, curl into a ball on your side or lie on your stomach.
  • Remain as quiet as possible during the attack.

Info from here.

Attackers

Scary!

Scary!

What to remember: Kick the shins hard, fingernails to the face, go for the nose, run like hell.

Alas, probably the biggest danger to female runners is the predatory male. I’m basically going to refer you to a fantastic post that Angela wrote about how to deal with an attack from which I got the summary above. You should read the whole post now. Do it.

Now I’m totally freaked out. But I feel I am a little less clueless. Hope this is useful.

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Running The World: Malaysia

This week’s Running The World interview is from the country of Malaysia. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about Malaysia beforehand, except that an old boyfriend was obsessed with the place. So I had to do some investigating.

Malaysia is a small country with a population of 29m, made up of the Malaysia Peninsula (which borders Thailand and which is linked to tiny Singapore by a bridge) and East Malaysia, on a large island which it shares with much larger Indonesia. Brunei is nestled snugly into the land making up East Malaysia. The business capital, Kuala Lumpur, and the administrative capital, Putrajaya, are both on the Malaysia Peninsula. The main ethnic groups are Malays, Chinese and Indians.

Our interviewee is the wonderful Fairy. I wish that was technically correct but her real name is Farah.  I met her following my interview with Holly and Grace about running in SingaporeSanthi tweeted me to say I should speak to Fairy…so I did…and this is what happened.

Tell us a little about yourself!

My real name is Farah but close friends and family call me Fairy. I am a business IT professional working for a financial institution. I live in Petaling Jaya, a township about 15-20 minutes away from the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur. My hobbies are running, travelling, reading and writing/blogging. At one point I was blogging about my observations on Indonesian pop culture. But now my interests have shifted to blogging about my adventures in running at run.fairym.com.

Fairy trail running xxx

Fairy running the trails in Kiara, near KL

How did you get into running?

I first started running after I worked to lose about 20% of my old weight due to exercising using video games like the Wii Fit and Xbox Kinect – that was 2010. I then took up running as a way to further develop and increase my fitness level. So far it has been 3 years since I took it up, my first race being a 5km at a race called Energizer Night Run which took place on the track of the Sepang International Circuit where the famous F1 motorcar races are held. I normally run 3-4 times a week and nowadays I incorporate some gym work in between those sessions.

How big is running as a sport in Malaysia?

Running as a competitive sport has always been around in Malaysia, in schools, universities and national teams; runners compete in district, state, national and world levels as they do in other parts of the world. However, running as a hobby has become even bigger and popular in recent years among recreational and amateur runners. Log on to any social media and you’ll find more and more Malaysians coming forth to excitedly share their experiences in running, whether it’s a solo thing, a group effort, a gadget review or achieving a personal best at an event. And personally I think it is happening worldwide too, not just in Malaysia.

There are road races every weekend across the country, mostly as a result of some corporation wanting to increase their brand visibility or a NGO aiming to raise funds for charity while providing an outlet for runners. Every year the number of runner allocations for the big races increases. For example, Malaysia’s major marathon, the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon (SCKLM) in the capital city debuted in 2009 with “only” 13,500 runners. By 2013 that number had increased 61% to about 35,000. Penang Bridge International Marathon (PBIM) which takes place in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia also enjoys large participation rate; last November they saw 34,500 runners and this year (2014) they are expecting that number to double at 70,000. It’s truly mind boggling!

The Penang Bridge Marathon Source

The Penang Bridge Marathon
Source

If you could encourage a traveller to do any Malaysian race, which would it be?

If you’re looking for a road race, I’d recommend the KL Marathon or Penang Marathon (PBIM). If you’re looking for a mountainous trail, The Most Beautiful Thing ultramarathon in Sabah (the Borneo part of Malaysia in the east) is also breathtaking.

(Cat’s note: The Trails In Motion Film Festival featured a film about this race. You can actually watch it online for free HERE. 8 mins of trail gorgeousness. If you’re local, the TIMFF is at Sunnyvale on August 7th).  

What kind of people are running?

Traditionally males are always more active and visible in sports, running notwithstanding. If you observe a race event in Malaysia, you’ll find more male participants than females (about 2/3), female participation is always lower than the men’s. But that is not to say women aren’t embracing running. Our numbers are growing too!

Any idea on how big running is amongst women in Malaysia?

I don’t have the exact statistics of number of female runners in the country but if you want to get a feel of how we stack up against the men, we usually make about 25-35% of all participants in a running event (assuming it’s not a ladies-only event like the Malaysia Women Marathon). We have a diverse age range; you can pretty much find 20 year-olds as you can ladies in their 50s; in fact some of the faster female runners I know are well above 40!

I think what’s driving the growth is women’s propensity for networking and self-awareness of wanting to lead a healthy lifestyle. There’s also that desire to look good too – and how can you resist all those cute fashions they’ve got for us lady runners.

I see more urban women running than their rural counterparts. It may have something to do with education and disposable income levels (running gear is not cheap). Plus cities have more access to facilities that promote running (gyms, parks, support groups, etc).

Also, since there are many Muslim women runners in the country, the availability of sports hijab (headcover) offerings has also taken off, giving ladies who would like to preserve their lifestyle more options for their exercise attire. But at the heart of it all, I think women who run have found some sort of enjoyment from the physical and mental challenges that the sport brings them.

Fairy and her running buddies at the Petronas Towers xxx

Fairy and her running buddies at the Petronas Towers

How safe do you feel when you run?

Truthfully, I only feel safe running on the roads when I am with friends, preferably with one or more guy friends in the mix – I never run outdoors alone. Unless you live in a gated neighbourhood, I wouldn’t recommend running alone especially if you are a woman.  I’ve seen a friend almost getting car-jacked after she left a group run to change, which is why I am so paranoid about safety. My friend was brave – she screamed and shouted to grab attention, and people rushed to her aid, scaring the perpetrators off. If you are new to Malaysia and are looking to explore new territory or trail, find some local running buddies.

Do Malaysian runners often go to nearby Singapore to run or race?

Yes they do in fact, since our countries are so close to each other. I personally went to Singapore last year to run a race (the GE Women’s half marathon, loved it), that was my first time running in the Lion City and it was one of the best races I had ever ran.

I did notice a something however during the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) 2013 early December: I had expected to see many post-race photos from SCSM from Malaysian runners on my Facebook timeline but there was little to show for it. However, there was an overwhelming surge of shots from my Indonesian contacts instead! When I asked around about it, observers pointed out to me that the Malaysian runners had gone to the Macau Marathon that fell on the same date instead! So the theory was, seasoned Malaysian runners had gotten bored of racing in Singapore (Holly has mentioned in her interview with you that running routes in Singapore are just slight variations of the same main one so it can get boring if you’re there every year) and so people were seeking new venues and routes. The Indonesians on the other hand have picked up running in droves also and the trend of going overseas to race was picking up fast, hence Singapore became a hot destination last year.

But casual theories aside, yes I am certain many Malaysians head down to cross the Causeway to enter Singapore and participate in races, Singapore has so many scheduled in the year. We don’t go there so much for training I think, that can easily be done back in Malaysia, our weather’s pretty much the same and the Singaporean exchange rate is much higher than our currency so people tend to minimize their stay to save on accommodation expenses.

What I have been reading is that Singaporeans are coming to Malaysia a lot for the trail runs too as we have more routes and places for these events. Plus the fact that their money doubles here is a big pull factor, I suppose. Dining out and shopping becomes cheap and they eat like kings.

Fairy xxx

Fairy running in Putrajaya – the Prime Minister’s office is in the background

What do Malaysian runners use to fuel and hydrate when running? Any Malaysian specialities?

I think we fuel up like any other runner in the world – bananas, gels, isotonic drinks. What is unique is what we eat after running; we are spoilt for choice when it comes to local fare. We enjoy our famous breakfast food like nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk served with cucumber, spicy anchovies with boiled egg and other optional side dishes like cuttlefish) and roti canai (a flaky Indian-origin pancake typically served with curry or dahl –lentil- gravy). We also like to drink teh tarik (a hot milk tea beverage that is ‘pulled’ between two cups till frothy) and we do love our ice Milo chocolate malt drinks. Oh, have I mentioned that we love our food?

If I landed in your city or country, where would you send me to find out about the local running routes, group runs, and local races?

For running-related resources in Malaysia, Runners Malaysia is a good website to start at.

If you’re looking for races, I’d direct you to runwitme – a website that is maintained by a local blogger named Max who is passionate about running; he is always on top of things and has more race launch news than any other independent resource I know. MyRaceOnline is also a decent local site to scout for events.

As for running groups there really isn’t one particular group I’d recommend, it would have to depend on your interest (whether you’re into trail/road/short distance/ultramarathon /expat/local scene) – it’s best to ask around first.  Otherwise stick to something predictable and safe like KL City Centre (KLCC) jogging track but only in the day time, avoid night time if possible! If you want to run on decent sidewalks in a nice, safe neighbourhood, head down to newer townships like Desa Park City just on the outskirts of KL or Putrajaya further down south.

What you need is a bunch of friends like this

What you need is a bunch of friends like this

Are there any bloggers or Twitterers in Malaysia you’d recommend?

I’d recommend these three Malaysian bloggers:

  • Lina – a running mom with a quirky and nonsensical way of recapping her races, she gives some pretty good down-to-earth tips on running too. Twitter: @lina1975
  • Tristupe – a triathlete dad of two, loves sharing his take on all things related to running, cycling, swimming, nutrition, gadgets, safety and self-conduct while doing these sports. Twitter: @tristupe (he is active there).
  • Jamie – a running junkie who writes captivating race recaps of his trots around the world, has a shoe reviewing style that is reminiscent of Pete Larson’s (i.e. weighing them on food scales and everything – such a runnerd guy thing, right?

Malaysia is currently observing Ramadan, when you fast from sunrise to sundown. In July, that’s a pretty long day without food and water. As a runner, how do you handle that?

Indeed July 2014 coincides the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan; every year the Gregorian calendar month for fasting shifts because the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle (so next year it’ll fall about a month earlier). Depending on where you are in the world, the number of hours you fast will vary. In my part of the world, the average number of hours to fast is about 13 hours. Fasting does not only mean refraining from food and water during that period but also from other acts (e.g. sex, smoking, bad-mouthing) – it is truly a test of one’s patience and virtues. Even though we have our religious obligations to fulfil, being runners we are always thinking about how we are going to work around our schedules to fit our favourite routine in, especially if you are training for an upcoming full marathon or another event and don’t want to disrupt the flow. Since fasting only affects the Muslims in Malaysia, we will tweak our training plans to accommodate the conditions that come with fasting. Every year we tirelessly discuss and share tips as to what will work for each of us, it’s constantly an experiment and it’s definitely a different approach for different people.

What some people will do is to run about an hour before the break- fast time so that they can have their sustenance right after. Usually intensity and mileage are reduced, what’s important is to have a constant routine in place that is within reasonable physical capabilities. Others will choose to run much later in the night after the breaking of fast and the special ‘terawih’ prayers have taken place, which may mean anytime after 9:30pm. I plan to do my long slow distance runs this way with my group of friends every Friday at Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia located south of Kuala Lumpur. It’s usually very well-lit there and it’s beautiful to run at night with all the lights from the intricately-designed government buildings and bridges, many runners and cyclists enjoy going there.

I recently also went to the gym on a Sunday, an hour after my ‘sahur’ early morning meal at around 7am, I could do exercises for about 1.5 hours comfortably without compromising too much and still be able to function throughout the day, it is the weekend after all. My routine there so far has been to hit the cycling machine instead of the treadmill; this way I get to work different leg muscles but still get a decent cardio work out. There I also did some moderate weight training with guidance from a personal trainer, and so far I’ve been OK with not drinking after this modified morning routine. So I will most probably do a combination of the last two routines I mentioned throughout this month.

Last year I tried to run right before the breaking of fast and it was the hardest 30 minutes I’ve ever ran. At the end I almost blacked out from low blood sugar and just the humidity of running in the evening as the heat rose into the air from the hot ground. So now I know what training practices I’m more comfortable with. What will work better for me is night running post-breaking of fast and training in an air-conditioned gym early in the morning after ‘sahur’.

Are races still held during Ramadan?

Races in Malaysia are usually put on hold till after fasting month, as a sign of respect. Runners being runners will find ways to deal with the month in terms of training, as I’ve mentioned above. Those not affected by Ramadan are of course still racing; some will most likely travel overseas to join races. One Australian race this year, the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in Queensland, is a popular one with Malaysians (there are special programs to attract Malaysian and Singaporean runners, in fact) that falls in Ramadan. Malaysian Muslim runners wishing to go will forfeit and wait for a year when the date doesn’t coincide with the fasting month – but I know many other non-Muslim Malaysians will be flying in.

Fairy running at xxx Looks awful, doesn't it!

Fairy running on Langkawi Island

What are the best thing and worst things about running in Malaysia?

The best thing about running in Malaysia now is that there is a lot of visibility, awareness and support for the sport, there are many race events, independent running groups and product offerings which can help nurture your interest. There are plenty of runners who are chronicling and sharing their experiences via blogs and social media too, so there’s plenty that we can learn from them. In addition, we have pretty some nice jungle and hilly/mountain trails too if you’re into off-road running.

One of the most challenging parts about running here is probably our hot and humid weather. Malaysia is located in Southeast Asia very near the equator line so it’s tropical, hot and humid all year round – energy-sapping, to say the least. Hence running can be a dangerous sport if you’re not hydrating adequately on the go. Expect to sweat buckets while you’re running, more so than usual if you’re coming from a 4-season climate. There is a little insider joke that goes around the community which says runners only reach their personal bests when they’re racing overseas in cooler climates.

Another aspect which I wish we can improve is our sidewalk infrastructure – we are not exactly the most pedestrian-friendly country in the world, much less so for runners. When we do hit the city we’re almost always running on the roads next to the cars, literally. If you want to run on decent sidewalks in a nice and safe neighbourhood, head down to newer townships like Desa Park City just on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, or head down to the parks. We have some nice ones actually like Lake Garden in KL or Taman Lembah Kiara in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail (TTDI).

Safety is also another major concern of mine. It is no doubt a great concern to many people, not just for runners but for society as a whole. Criminals take advantage when we least expect it so we have to close down every window of opportunity that exists. While we can’t always rely on authorities to make us feel safe, we can remain vigilant and aware of our surroundings and never once for stray too far away from the group.

But don’t let my stories discourage you from trying to run in Malaysia, though. These are just my personal observations. Malaysia’s a fantastic country to run through, it’s just that I advise you to exercise caution, make loads of friends to accompany you and come prepared to experience the heat.

Fairy, thank you so much for your hard work. You can (and should) follow Fairy on Twitter HERE, on her blog HERE and best of all on Instagram HERE. I love her IG feed.

For more Running The World interviews, click HERE.

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Race Recap: Redwood City Parade Run 5k

Last Tuesday, I saw on FB that one of my non-runner friends was running a 5k in nearby Redwood City on Independence Day. The Husband was doing his LONG training day that day so the Dude and I were free. My training plan (which I’ll talk about soon) called for 6 miles with 3 or 4 at tempo. I felt that a 5k stroller race would tick that box nicely enough. I checked his Dudeship’s opinion on the matter and he was keen for us to try and beat our stroller 5k PR, so I signed us up. At $35 it wasn’t too bank-rattling and was followed by a parade! Result.

I had no real expectations for this race. Our stroller PR is 26.41 but I didn’t think I was that fit at the moment. However Roundhay parkrun the other week came in at 26.43 on a hilly course so I thought that maybe on a flatter course, I might come close. We have borrowed a friend’s Bob stroller to take to Canada for the Ironman (early start, long day, late finish) so we decided to race with that.

Parking was limited so we got there early and parked very easily at the junction of Arguello and Whipple and walked the 10 blocks or so to the start/finish line. Registration was just round the corner, packet pick-up was easy and I got a great t-shirt! No t-shirt for the Dude as he wasn’t registered as a separate runner…but the very sweet volunteer guy winked and told me to pick one up for him, which the Dude and I both hugely appreciated.

Got our flag...ready to run

Got our flag…ready to run

As we waited to start (we self-seeded towards the front, wondering if we were in the right place) I got chatting to a dad pushing a double-stroller. My plan was to let him run ahead and let him carve a way through the crowd, but it turned out he’d done a few Ironman races and had qualified for Kona so maybe not. The gun went off (super loud) and we were running.

The course was decent…three loops around downtown. It was quite busy but I managed to get a decent pace going early on and not to weave around too much. It was flipping hot. I wondered if I’d gone out too fast but whatever, I just planned to hang on. I ran past my friend, running with her daughters, soon after the start – the cheeky monkeys had started before me – so it was lovely to yell for them. Three loops seem to take forever but soon enough, we’d completed them all and dashed for the finish. As I crossed, I saw the time said 25:xx but I also knew my new Garmin (more on that another day) hadn’t even beeped three miles! Alas I’d run 2.98 miles in 25.43. When I extrapolated that pace up to 5.1, it came in at 26.49 – 8 seconds off my stroller PR. I wasn’t disappointed at all…really happy with it!

I was even MORE happy when I checked my results on the super-fancy computers at the Results Desk and found I was 4th stroller overall. I’d seen already that the race organizers had been incredibly generous with their prize categories (you had awards three deep for both male and female single strollers and double strollers) so I wondered if I might just have snuck a prize. Indeed I had – second Female Single Stroller.The Dude was so excited you would have thought he’d run it himself. I was pretty chuffed too.

Anyone would have thought he was the one who did the running!

Anyone would have thought he was the one who did the running!

A quick note on the race itself – it was VERY well organized and supported. It’s only a local race but the turn-out was brilliant, about 1200 runners, and I really can’t speak highly enough of the organization. I’ve never been to a race that had stroller prizes (let alone split by gender and double/single) and I hugely appreciated that. The generosity with prizes and t-shirts kind of sums it up for me. I definitely want to do more of their races!

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Review: Feedzone Portables

This is not a sponsored post. I bought the book with the Husband’s hard earned cash. None of the links are affiliate links. 

(Happy Independence Day, America on behalf of Great Britain).

I’ve mentioned a few times that we recently bought Feedzone Portables by Biju Thomas and Allen Lim and the Husband’s been using it to fuel his Ironman training. I’ve used it enough times now to justify a review…so here we go.

What is it and who wrote it?

Feedzone Portables is basically a cookbook of recipes for fueling during endurance training and events. If you’re sick of gels and the like and actually want to fuel with real food, then this is the book for you. All the portion sizes are bite-sized and easy to carry and eat whilst on the go.

The book is written by Allen Lim, a sports physiologist and coach who worked with some top pro-cycling teams and Biju Thomas, a chef who’s also worked in pro-cycling. It definitely caters most obviously for triathletes and long-distance cyclists, but the recipes work equally well for all endurance sports…like running.

feedzone

What kind of food does it offer?

There are all kinds of recipes included in the book….muffins, pies, frittatas and, pre-dominantly, baked rice cakes. So far, I’ve mainly stuck with the baked rice cakes because they seemed like the kind of thing that met our specific needs.

Made with a specific sticky rice called Calgrain (found at decent grocery stores), they come together really easily. You cook the rice, you blend up the flavourings, you mix them together, form balls (with specific instructions as to how to do this), bake them, wrap ‘em in silver foil and boom, job done!

I have to be honest, I’m not the best cook in the world but every single recipe I’ve made has turned out pretty amazingly. They are very simple to put together (if a little time-consuming) and they taste awesome. A I’ve so far made five or six different flavours and whilst we have our favourites, they’ve all been good. (There’s a link to a load of recipes down below).

Rice cakes and sweet potato cakes

Rice cakes and sweet potato cakes

Preparation

If the thought of getting up an hour earlier than necessary to make your portables fills you with dread, then don’t despair. I’ve made the portables on a Friday night and they have been spot on for both Saturday and Sunday training. One week, I actually ate the last rice cake in the batch on a Thursday and whilst the rice was a little dry, it wasn’t bad at all and the flavor was still good. So you can make them in advance of any big runs.

I haven’t tried freezing them.

How well did they work as fuel?

Because my running has taken a back seat over the past few months as the Husband’s Ironman training has ramped up, I’ve only actually used them as fuel once, on my long trail run in Marin. I was really impressed with how it worked. I took a rice cake, wrapped in silver foil and ate it in two halves – it’s actually pretty big. I found it filled my stomach nicely and felt much more satisfying than a gel would do. Granted, the run wasn’t particularly long or hard (10 miles) but I don’t think I got as tired as I usually do on long runs and energy levels kept pretty steady!  I think they’d be great for marathon training long runs as well.

Looking super-foxy as I devour my rice-cake

Looking super-foxy as I devour my rice-cake

The Husband has used them considerably more so I asked his opinion. He thought that the rice cakes were really good – they taste great, they satisfy him, they’re nicer to eat than endless gels and they give him long-term energy.

He had a slight concern that the rice is filling him up disproportionately to the energy it gives.We are still working out his fueling strategy and it may well be that he’s simply not eating enough, so for very long workouts (i.e. Ironman training) he’s looking at alternating rice cakes with gels or jelly babies. Or maybe he just needs to eat more.

His other concern was that they’re difficult to unwrap on the bike. This is my fault. The book gives details on how to wrap the food for easy consumption. I basically ignored it and wrapped them up like birthday presents, so it’s worth taking some time to learn how to wrap them. I’ll be doing that this week!

Yum!

Yum!

Other uses

There are a couple of other benefits of the recipes that I thought worth flagging.

  • Pre-run fueling.  A few times, when I’ve run early in the morning, it’s been too early for breakfast beforehand but I’ve felt like I needed something. Half a baked rice cake has proved absolutely perfect to set me up for 6 – 9 miles on an otherwise empty stomach.
  • Healthy breakfast on the go. If you’re out and about, these would make really good breakfasts or snacks on the go. The Dude doesn’t like to eat his breakfast for a while after he wakes up and I’ve been worried about how I’m going to get a nutritious breakfast into him before school when he starts in September. I think these might be the answer to my prayers.

Benefits

Apart from the things I’ve mentioned above:

  • There’s a fascinating and hugely detailed chapter at the start of the book about nutrition for endurance athletes. It’s worth buying the book for that chapter alone.
  • It’s also a really beautiful book. It feels great in your hands, the photography of the food is wonderful and it’s studded with photos of super-sleek endurance athletes to inspire you.
  • It feels really good psychologically to be eating real food on a long run. It’s flipping great to know exactly what’s in your snack.
  • The portables are pretty easy to carry. Whilst they’re obviously not sleek and tiny like gels, they don’t take up a lot of space. I personally feel the rice cakes are a little big and would make them smaller if I was making them for myself, but the Husband (who isn’t 5’1) likes them sized as advised.
A wrapped feed zone portable fits nicely in the pocket of my handheld.

A wrapped feed zone portable fits nicely in the pocket of my handheld.

Downsides

Not so much downsides as things to consider:

  • I can’t imagine fueling with these during a running race. An Ironman, yes! A half-marathon? No. I can’t quite see how I’d carry a rice cake in my racing outfit, unwrap the silver foil and munch on real food whilst busting a gut trying to get a PR. This makes me wonder about how a sensitive stomach would handle a sudden influx of gels during a race when it’s not used to it. If anyone HAS raced using a feed zone portable as fuel, please let me know how it went! I really hope it IS possible.
  • The recipes aren’t difficult but they take some time. The baked rice cakes take about 10 mins to cook the rice and 10 mins to let it cool. During this time, you blend up the flavorings. You then take 10 mins or so to form the rice cakes and then they take 10 minutes to bake and 5 minutes to wrap. Not exactly difficult but worth bearing in mind on a Friday night.
  • They are calorific. This is actually a good thing if you use them as  intended. But if you’re not training like a boss, don’t fuel like a boss.The book warns you not to snack on these portables for this very reason. It’s easy to think of these portables as a healthy snack to carry around (and they can be) but just be careful.

If you only make one feed zone portable….

….make it the lemon ricotta rice cake. Yum!

Links

I’ve shared these links before but they’re relevant to this blog post as well.

The book is filled with photos of awesome athletes

The book is filled with photos of awesome athletes

Summary

A great book if you train for distance events and want to fuel a bit more naturally. Whole-heartedly recommended.

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Running The World: Australia

Yay! Welcome back to Running The World! Today we’re going down under to talk to Rachael in Australia! I found Rachael by good old-fashioned googling, dropped her a note and asked if she fancied taking part and, bless her, she did!! I was curious to see what she’d say. Australia seems quite intimidating for runners…blistering heat, gigantic spiders, lethal wildlife. What’s it like to run there?

Tell us a little about yourself

Hi, my name is Rachael McKinney and I’m a 46-year-old ex-pat Scot. I’ve been living in Australia for the last 10 years, met and married an Aussie a few years ago and picked up my Aussie passport along the way. I live in Sydney and for my sins I currently work in the finance team of a big telecommunications company. We don’t have any kids but we do have a couple of fat lazy cats who generally use us solely for food and extra heat during the winter.

Other than running I love reading – for a brief period in the dim and distant past we ran an online bookstore – and at sometime in the future I’m still hoping to write a bad novel having taken time out of my finance career a few year ago to do a diploma in journalism – which confirmed my love of writing and my suspicion that I’d probably never make a reporter. My family such as they are still live back in Glasgow in Scotland and I try to get home often enough so that I still recognise them when I get off the plane.

To capitalise on our love of the outdoors we are actually planning to move to Queensland in the next six months and I only ran my first Queensland half marathon in June this year (got third in age cos all the fast chicks were in bed or saving themselves for gold coast in July)

Rachel.  I have hair envy.

Rachael.
I have hair envy.

How did you get into running?

Years ago I was doing some postgrad studies back in in Glasgow – having lived and worked for many years in London – and I got roped into a University team entry for the Glasgow half marathon and I ran my first half. I wasn’t a runner and that didn’t turn me into one! A few years later having lived in Australia for 4 years, there was a family tragedy back home that left us all reeling. Returning to Aus, I needed something to take my mind off it. I had been into fitness so it seemed a logical next step to train for and run a half marathon. That was May 2008.

For some reason this time it took hold – maybe it was something to do with the weather. Soon I had set myself a target of a sub-two-hour half marathon as the point at which I could let myself think about training for and running a marathon. The sub-two hour half came in November 2008. The first marathon came in April 2009.

So tell us about running in Australia. How popular is it as a sport?

Running in Aus is really popular though, relative to other countries, the core band of high-end recreational and elite runners is not big. Once or twice a year though, about 80,000 Australians turn up to run the iconic ‘City to Surf,’ a 14km run from the city centre to Bondi Beach in Sydney, making it  one of the biggest timed fun runs in the world.

A few of the same large crowd also turn out for city running festivals in Sydney and Melbourne while events like the Gold Coast marathon attract a big international crowd. Outside of the larger events, there is a smaller, more regular running crowd who are running club half-marathons and 10kms every month and turning out for the smaller running festivals in fabulously named country towns like Wagga Wagga and Mudgee.

Is running growing in popularity?

Running is definitely enjoying a purple patch in Australia and a quick look at look at the number of events on offer in Australia wide will attest to the popularity of ‘fun running’ (I hate that phrase) in Australia. Australia only has a population of 21 million so, by definition, there are fewer runners than other countries but there is a strong running history dating back to the early 80s when great runners like Rob De Castella and later Steve Moneghetti and Pat Carroll were making a name for themselves on the international marathon stage. I interviewed Rob De Castella, a former world champion marathon runner and now advocate for indigenous running in Australia for my blog: Here is the link. He set up the Indigenous Marathon Project, a project to introduce Aboriginal Australians to distance running.

The parkrun phenomenon has also really taken off here too which has also boosted the popularity of running amongst those who enjoy running (especially the community aspect) but for whom running 10km or more is just not something they feel able to do regularly.

Australia is a big country – do you have any idea about running’s popularity in different parts of the country?

The popularity of running in Australia is not specific to one area and is fairly widespread. Of course, given the unique geographical challenges of the country, most events are put on in the populated areas, which are generally the coastal areas both east and west and south. Darwin is sub-tropical and whilst there are running clubs and events at other distances, there is no marathon there currently. That said, there is still an Alice Springs Running Festival in August.Again a quick look at the running calendar mentioned above will show just how widespread it is.

Sydney is the biggest city in Australia (although not the capital – that’s Canberra) so probably has the biggest number of running clubs – and there are others aside from the ones I’m a member of in different areas of the city – but there is an equally vibrant club scene in the other major cities and big towns.

Cracking views when you run in Sydney. Source

Cracking views when you run in Sydney.
Source

How do Australian runners handle the particular challenges of the country – the heat, the sun, the intimidating wildlife etc?

With typical Australian adaptability! It’s winter in Australia just now which means there are loads of events to choose from. Depending on how far north you go, things begin to quieten down as we head into spring/summer. The Hobart (Tasmania) marathon is in January – but then that is an island off the south coast of mainland Australia so they can just about get away with it down there in the summer. Australian runners are generally acclimatised to running in warmer weather though. It’s just what you do here.

Events start early and you get used to running early in the day. In the winter I might sneak in a daytime run, but in the summer, if I haven’t run first thing in the morning then it’s unlikely I’ll run that day (I’m not a great fan of evening running). Sun means hats and lots of sunscreen – generally. Aussies are very sun aware and to be honest, for most road runners, traffic not wildlife is a bigger issue – though trail running (which we touch on below) has become popular in recent years and probably requires a little more preparedness – but it’s snakes, insects and leeches that are more of an issue than bigger wildlife. We don’t generally run where the kangaroos run.

Can you describe the demographics of Australian runners?

If you look at the stats for any club or bigger event, then men still probably outnumber women roughly 2 to 1. That said, I know a lot of strong women runners in their 30′s, 40′s and 50′s who are getting into ultra running. I suppose socio-economically they are likely to be the professional classes but that is mainly due to having the time and resources to train and travel to take part in ultra-marathon events.

How many women are running in Oz? What’s driving any growth?

Women are definitely well represented in Australian running, both at the elite and back of the pack level. So much so that a new magazine Women’s Running was established in the last couple of years in Australia. I think it’s targeted towards less experienced runners but that’s a good thing if gets more women and girls running and helps them feel less intimidated about taking part in events. There are still more men than women but events like The Colour Run and as mentioned parkrun have also served to make running more accessible to women who might not have previously been interested or more importantly believed it was something that they could do.

Australian athletes like Sally Pearson – the 2001 World Champion and 2012 Olympic champion 100m hurdler – have definitely influenced women’s running, especially track racing.  Ultra running is popular in Australia and I know a lot of strong older women runners who might not have fast half marathon or 10km times but who have built the endurance over the years to take up this sport and really do well. Of course there are plenty of fast, shorter-distance runners who also do well at ultras.

How safe do you feel when you run?

Generally I feel safe when I’m running but I tend to be sensible about it. I do most of my running in the early morning and right now – mid winter – it’s still dark. But I run with a torch and I run where I know there are going to be lots of other runners, so I am either running with a running buddy or I am usually passing runners that I have run past so many times over the years we are on nodding terms. We are also very lucky here in Aus – and at least where I live even in an urban area – to have lots of places to run where there is not a lot of traffic.

The xxx bridge, part of Rachel's favourite local running route.

The Iron Cove bridge, part of Rachel’s favourite local running route.

It sounds like racing is pretty popular. 

Yes, it is and I know a lot of runners who think nothing of travelling interstate and overseas to run in events. At a local level here in Sydney, the club racing scene is very well organised. I run in two clubs regularly  including the Sydney Striders who have a monthly 10km race from February to June. They also run marathon training groups and LSDs on a Sunday at various locations around the city.

I also run at the Sydney Marathon Clinic which organises a 21.1/10km/5km every month from October to June. All of these races are extremely well organised and run by very dedicated club volunteers. The courses are officially measured and members get bibs and times for each race – the SMC half marathon times can be used as qualifiers for other races – and there are prizes, refreshments and lucky draws on race day and series winner trophies for outright an age group winners at an awards dinner at the end of the series

Rachel at a half-marathon in xxxx

Rachel at a half-marathon recently

 How expensive is racing?

These club races are very reasonably priced and with SMC you can run a half marathon once a month as a non-member for the duration of the series for $25 ($23 USD/14 GBP) a race (significantly less if you buy a race pack of 3, 6 or 9 runs.). Sydney Striders 10km races are a max of $25 a time – much less for members or if you register online. The city running festivals  tend to require a much greater degree of organisation and are therefore much more expensive – over $100 ($94 USD/55 GBP) for even the half marathons. Fairfax Media who own a significant proportion of the TV and newspaper media outlets here in Australia are probably the biggest (but not the only) organiser of big city events – they organise, for example, City to Surf in Sydney as well as the Canberra Marathon among many others. 10kms and half marathons remain among the most popular distances – though 5km is definitely on the up for newer runners thanks to the Colour Run and Park runs.

Which are the most important races in Australia?

I don’t think any race in Australia is more important than any other. The oldest footrace in Australia is an odd race run once a year around Easter called the Stawell Gift named for the Victorian town it has been run in every year except four since 1878, and which attracts elite athletes. To be honest, I think the most important races are those that get more people who wouldn’t normally run out running – so the newer shorter distance community runs and big once a year community events such as City to Surf in Sydney.  

80,000 runners in City 2 Surf Source

80,000 runners in City 2 Surf
Source

Which are your own personal favorites?

My own personal favourites are the club runs. I run because I love racing and seeing my times get better so I like to be able to run regularly on the same course and see the results of my training – plus, let’s face it, when you do a lot of racing you don’t want to be forking out $100 every time. It’s also the core of a big part of my social life and I really enjoy catching up with the usual suspects at these events.

For a running weekend away I really love the Australian Running Festival in Canberra in April each year as it’s a real runners festival. It used to be only a marathon (which I ran as my first marathon in 2009) but it’s been extend to include a half-marathon and a 10km. It’s a great weekend away and one that attracts runners from around the country and is a great place to catch up with runners I know that I see less regularly. Canberra is lovely at that time of year as well – very autumnal. I am most proud of the bronze belt buckle I earned for completing The North Face 100  in the Blue Mountains in May 2010 in under 20 hours – though it’s the only ultra marathon I’ve ever done.

If you could encourage a traveller to do any Aussie race, which would it be?

As iconic races go and in terms of just real spectacle and given that it finishes at the beachfront in Bondi, then Sydney’s City to Surf  would be the one I would recommend to any visitor who happens to find themselves in Sydney in August. At 14km it’s pretty much doable for any runner.

 What trends are taking off at the moment?

For a broader audience, obstacle course races like Tough Mudder are gaining in popularity and for a lot of runners I know the lure of triathlon has proved too much and they have crossed over to the dark side.

How popular is trail running in Australia?

  A fairly recent race series called Running Wild  puts on trail running events of various distances in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Also the growing numbers of starters in big ultra events like the North Face 100, Wild Endurance and the Great North Walk (actually a running race) in New South Wales, and Glasshouse 100 demonstrate the increasing popularity of this sport for runners who want something far more challenging than ‘just’ a marathon. For the very keen, the Australian Ultra Runners association – AURA – has more details.

I’d have to say the biggest risk with the popularity of ultra marathons comes more from a lack of preparedness and training than any external risk like wildlife. But that can extend to getting lost and being on the trails for far longer than expected. That said, the stories you hear in Aus about people getting lost in the bush don’t tend to involve runners and are more likely to be underprepared walkers and hikers, which is a testimony to how seriously the organisers take runner safety and how well organised most of these events are.

What do Aussie runners use to fuel and hydrate when running? Are there any Australian specialities?

I can only really talk from personal experience here and I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to running. It probably sounds a bit naff but I’ve always subscribed to the idea that I want my body to adapt to the running I do, in terms of the utilisation of fuel from normal food sources. This means I very rarely drink sports drinks unless I’m racing – and then I will happily rely on whatever is on offer and most of the time couldn’t tell you the brand. The only time I ever take gels is if I am running a marathon. A brand I have liked in the past is High5  but I know brands like Endura and Hammer are popular here.

When training, I don’t eat breakfast before morning runs generally – if it’s over 15km I might grab an instant coffee but that’s about it. And for hydration … water, water, water, and then coffee afterwards. Aussies love their coffee and are coffee snobs. It really is the best coffee in the world. Odd I know but after 10 years here the one thing I hate about going back to the UK is not getting a decent cup of coffee (what a princess). I’m not sure there are any Aussie specialties as such – though I know a lot of experienced runners have a set routine before races and eat things like creamed rice. I’ll usually just have my normal breakfast.

What gear do Australian runners like?

Garmins are popular with a lot of runners that I know – I do love my Garmin,  my husband bought me a Forerunner 220 this year for my birthday which I love. All the major brands feature for popular running shoes and gear here in Aus, from the runners who favour minimalist shoes like Innov8 and even Vibram Five Fingers to those who swear by the oversized Hoka One Ones as being the saviour of their legs on long runs.

Anyone fancy running here? Me too. Source

Anyone fancy running here? Me too.
Source

Where do Australian runners buy their running gear?

Because I know my preferred brand and model, I buy most of my shoes online from Wiggle, a UK on-line sports retailer. Generally I can get them much cheaper than here in Aus, which is an expensive country to buy gear in. A lot of people buy online from overseas, though Aussie shoppers do need to be careful because some websites are prohibited by some brands from exporting to Australia – those big brands have to protect their profit margins somehow I guess. It’s a bit of a source of frustration for Aussies. Yep we are geographically remote but in this day and age it feels like a lame excuse for things to be 25% higher in cost than anywhere else.

Otherwise runners here are good at supporting good local running stores – generally avoiding the ‘chains’ as they don’t offer as good a service and often try to up-sell things like orthotics even if you don’t need them. A few good stores are aligned with clubs and will let runners try out their shoes at club runs and will donate pairs for giveaways.

Who are the running heroes in Australia?

There are loads of running heroes in Australia and I’ve mentioned a few already above (a quick Google search will throw up some of the more famous ones such as Aboriginal Olympian Cathy Freeman) but there are so many more heroes than just the World and Olympic Champions. To be honest I hardly know where to start. I know local runners who are inspirational to the running community though their dedication and effort – guys who have run 100 or more marathons but think nothing of mentoring new runners.Check out the Australian Marathon 100 club.

There are runners who have undertaken huge feats for fundraising. Check out ultra runner Jane Trumper’s website or Trent Morrow – aka ‘Marathon Man’. The list is long.

My own personal heroes are those runners who don’t necessarily shine on the track or road but have made it a part of their life for all of their life. Particularly older runners still training and running races. Checkout Norma ‘Lucky Legs’ Wallett’s website. She’s in her 80’s and still running (and blogging)! Truly inspirational and someone I hope to emulate for the next 40 years of my running career.

How does social media fit into the Australian running community?

The first and probably longest standing online forum for runners in Australia is Cool Running. When I first started out as a runner, it was a fantastic place to get tips ideas and info about racing, training, gear, nutrition and anything else remotely of interest to a running community. It was the place that led me to all the clubs and events and friends I have now.

These days I probably use Facebook more, as most of my Aussie friends are runners. Plus I am a much more experienced runner and I know where all the races I want to run are and the gear I want to buy is so I don’t need as much advice any more. But I still drop into Cool Running now and again to see what is happening in the current threads.

I have a twitter account but I find it tough to keep up even though I have a fair few followers just now  and even my own blog gets a bit neglected now and again because I just don’t have the time or energy to devote to it that I’d like. So of course because of that I’m bit rubbish when it comes to recommending blogs and twitterers to follow.  

What about media?

Occasionally I buy either the Australian version of Runner’s World or the probably a bit more respected Run 4 Your Life . I don’t really listen to podcasts but one of my friends is a regular listener to Marathon Talk. Otherwise I just randomly surf for things I might be interested in at any particular time to do with running.

If I landed in your city/country, where would you send me to find out about the local running routes, group runs, and local races?

Cool Running would be the first place I would send you, no question.  

What is the best and worst things about running in Australia?

I have been to so many places and met so many people running in Australia. As an ex-pat, it has been my introduction into a new community. I mentioned that I’m about to move interstate – I have already found and been in touch with local runners – though I already knew some just from being part of the wider Australian running community. From a purely running perspective, I have run in some of the most beautiful countryside imaginable. Of course, in New South Wales where Sydney is  located, the weather is pretty much runner- friendly the whole year – it gets hot in summer but for us early birds that’s nothing.

Again probably a bit naff but I cannot think of anything to do with running that is bad or challenging here in Australia or anywhere for that matter. It’s running, we do it because we love it so how could there be?

She makes a great point! Rachael, thank you so much for talking to me!! It’s been brilliant. You can (and should) follow Rachael’s blog HERE and on Twitter HERE!

For other Running The World interviews, click HERE!

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England, baby: Running Up North

For the second part of our trip, we headed up north to see the Husband’s parents. They have a static caravan in Skegness on the Lincolnshire coast, so we went there to see them. (For US readers, this is kind of like a trailer on a trailer park, but without any connotations that such a thing would have in the US; it’s a common place for UK families to spend summer holidays). We had a great time with the in-laws. We visited seal sanctuaries, played neon-lit indoor mini-golf (uh-huh!) and ate a LOT of bread (oh UK bread, you are amazing). But there was some running too.

Mini golf, indoors, neon lit!!

Mini golf, indoors, neon lit!!

I join a running club…briefly.

On the Tuesday, I joined the local running club for their regular run. It was the first time I’ve done such a thing, I was inspired by Running The World, to be honest. The Skegness Coasters were perhaps the friendliest bunch of people I’ve ever run with – they were so kind and welcoming. It was a pyramid/interval night – I joined the middle group and a lovely girl called Martina basically volunteered to run with me the whole way so I didn’t get dropped! In the end, we were pretty much exactly the same speed so now I’m gutted we live so far apart and can’t train together more often! We ran 5.3 miles around Skegness, mixing fast periods of 2,3,4,5 minutes with slower periods and got back feeling pretty awesome at the end. No photos were taken, but if you’re in Skeggy on a Tuesday night, these guys are the nicest. They invited me to their Summer Wednesday night races (5 mile race for 3 GPB/$5) the next night but I couldn’t make it.

Easy miles by the sea

On the Thursday, I headed out for 6 easy miles by myself. Skegness is flat so I cruised along and had a lovely time really.

Sunshine, beach path, nice!

Sunshine, beach path, nice!

The desolate, beautiful English coastline

The desolate, beautiful English coastline

Caravans and roller-coasters. Skeggy in a nutshell.

Caravans and roller-coasters. Skeggy in a nutshell.

I race a mobility scooter

On Friday, I took part in a very important race. The Dude and the MIL on her Mobility Scooter versus the runner. I won! The Dude is still disputing this.

IMG_3483

For the weekend, we headed to Leeds in Yorkshire, where we used to live, staying with my best friend and seeing most of my other best friends. It was pretty amazing really. On the Saturday morning, I ran my first parkrun.  (Yes, I get very angsty at proper nouns that don’t take capitals). We tried to do Roundhay Parkrun last year but it got snowed off. This time, the weather was perfect. I was joined by my friend Andy who came to SF last year to run the SF Marathon. 

Roundhay parkrun 5k

I was hugely impressed by parkrun. It’s a free 5k (and they’re held in many many towns across the UK). You print a personalised barcode, run the race and at the end they scan your barcode, scan a finish-time barcode and boom, there’s your result. 224 runners turned out and the atmosphere was great.

The course is brutal. 3 laps of a hilly route. You start at the bottom of a hill, run up it, run along, run down, run along and run up again…and you finish at the top of the hill. I knew this wouldn’t be a fast race for me as I’m not in shape and I knew the course, but I wanted to get under 27 mins. In the end, I scraped in at 26.43 (official time 26.53 but there’s no chip and I started at the back talking to some friends with a stroller). I was actually pretty happy with that time and ended up 19th out of 81 women.

The finish chute

The finish chute

My friend Chris finishing strong

My friend Chris finishing strong

Recovering on the grass with Andy

Recovering on the grass with Andy

Some more gratuitous photos of our time up north…

My MIL gets interviewed by the local BBC station!

My MIL gets interviewed by the local BBC station!

The funfair at Skegness

The funfair at Skegness

SO much fun, driving one of these things!

SO much fun, driving one of these things!

And that was actually it for running in the UK. I flew back on Thursday (five days after parkrun) and basically ditched running in exchange for time with my friends and my family…and it was great. It’s lovely to be back, snuggled up with the Husband and the cat, and I am all fired up to start running and training again…but I do kind of miss the UK.

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England, baby! Running down south.

So I’m back from our trip to the UK and oops, I totally failed to blog whilst I was away. Our laptop broke the day before we left and wasn’t fixed in time, so I had a little blogging break and it was FAB! I really love blogging, but a break can be a good thing! I’m back in California, back online and have a LOT to say!

As expected, my mileage took a nose-dive whilst I was away. Time with family and friends, especially when you live so far away, always takes priority. I’m totally chilled about that and think it did me good physically and mentally. I’m really excited about putting together a training plan and getting started, but it was really nice to have a few weeks of comfy, happy running.

Apologies if you follow me on Instagram as you’ll have already seen many of these photos.

We flew into London and spent the first five days with my parents down in Wiltshire. I am clearly biased, but Wiltshire is very beautiful – so green, so lush. I got a wonderful run in on the Thursday. It was a mix of quiet, country lanes and along footpaths and bridle-paths (the UK equivalent of trails in many places) and it was bliss. I wanted to do six miles but ended up doing about eight as it was just so nice.

Trails, Wiltshire-style

Trails, Wiltshire-style

Views for miles

Views for miles

Chalk roads across Salisbury Plain

Chalk roads across Salisbury Plain

Country lanes, hedges and fields..

Country lanes, hedges and fields..

I dream of living in a house like this...dates from 1660!

I dream of living in a house like this…dates from 1660!

A little old stone church...I love this place

A little old stone church…I love this place

That weekend, we went camping with the Parents down to Dorset, the next county along. Dorset is maybe more green and bucolic even that Wiltshire, and we had an amazing time. If you told me 15 years ago that I would go caravanning with the Parents, I would have died inside but I was DESPERATELY excited about this weekend and it was brilliant. I snuck off for a run on the Saturday morning down quiet lanes, past campsites (with handily placed toilets). I then planned to run up a big hill on a footpath to see spectacular Corfe Castle from the top but came up against two of the UK’s biggest trail menaces….cows and stinging nettles. A lot of UK public footpaths go through cow fields and I am nervous of cows, especially when alone and when running. They are also often flanked by stinging nettles (which we don’t have in California) and I got stung to death by them. (It doesn’t hurt particularly). When the footpath headed into a field with some Mummy Cows and Baby Cows, it officially became too Cow-y for me so I turned back, but it had been the most beautiful run!

Early morning fields

Early morning fields

Which way shall I go?

Which way shall I go?

The hill I ran up.

The hill I ran up.

The view from the top (almost)

The view from the top (almost)

Hedgerows on the way down

Hedgerows on the way down

And here are a couple of totally gratuitous shots of our week.

The steam railway station at Corfe Castle and the amazing ruins in the background

The steam railway station at Corfe Castle and the amazing ruins in the background

My favourite castle in the whole world - Corfe Castle

My favourite castle in the whole world – Corfe Castle

I thought I was so cool with my orange sweatshirt...but apparently my Dad had the same idea.

I thought I was so cool with my orange sweatshirt…but apparently my Dad had the same idea.

I should not be living on the other side of the world from these people.

I should not be living on the other side of the world from these people.

The next day, we headed up north for a week…but that’s a whole new blog post!!

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Running The World: The UK

This is the last Running The World for a couple of weeks. I’m on my holidays and whilst I’m hoping to blog a few times whilst I’m here, regular content is going to take a little break! It’ll be back again at the start of July!

In the meantime…

Yesterday, the Dude and I landed at London Heathrow for 2 1/2 weeks, leaving the Husband to feed the cat, train for his Ironman and watch the World Cup. It is unbelievably lovely to be home, so, to celebrate, this week’s Running The World interview is from the glamourous shores of …the UK.

Dan, today’s interviewee, is an old friend of mine (long-term, as opposed to aged). We met 15 years ago when we went to the same church in London and bonded over the same (excellent) taste in literature. We both got into running once I’d moved away.

It may be a little odd, featuring the UK, being that I’m British. But I haven’t run seriously in the UK for 10 years and a lot has changed since then! I actually feel quite distant from the UK running scene, so was really interested to hear what Dan had to say. I know a number of you lovely people who read my blog are Brits as well – I would love to have your thought s in the comments below.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m 45, married with a 2 month old daughter. I work as a project manager/management accountant within the Health Service and apart from running, I enjoy playing guitar, literature, history and coffee. Oh and I’m a Christian.

Dan looking pretty fierce!

Dan not looking very Christian :)

Tell us about your running history.

I ran a bit as a kid, and enjoyed it, but it felt like you had to be much faster than I was to join a club or anything. I would run on and off but then developed some quite bad pains in my feet. I found it very easy to believe that my body was breaking. It’s a message that people get a lot, and a lot of times it’s overblown.

I started running around 2001, mainly to lose weight. I went for one run and was so shocked at how unfit I was that I had to keep going. I did a couple of slow marathons as part of this time.

I got more serious around 2008. I’d got married and put on some weight and we’d moved near a big park that’s great for running in. I got into it again, this time much more seriously. I got into forefoot striking and got quite a bit quicker, joined a club and started running much more competitively. Got to where my PRs were; 1500m – 4:54, 5k – 18:58 10k – 39:55 ½ marathon – 1:27.

Last year I was working in job that made it hard to train during the week so I’ve put on some weight and slowed down a bit (did a 20:20 5k yesterday). Plus we now have a new baby,  I’m trying to work out how to fit running around family and work commitments to get me back to where I want to be.I’m aiming to run a 10k in under 40 minutes later in the year, which is going to be a real challenge.

How big is running in the UK these days.

Running is pretty big, you see lots of people out running. And I would say that it’s definitely growing. I think it’s a real cross section of society. In the UK the poorest are also the most sedentary and I would say that’s the only group that isn’t running more. It tends to be people 30s and above who are getting into it rather than 20 somethings. My club has a junior section that there’s a waiting list to join.

What’s the racing scene like?

There are lots and lots of 10ks and half marathons. It feels like it’s something every town feels it should have. The average price is roughly £20 ($30)  for a 10k. Running clubs also put on races pretty cheaply.

There are companies who organise races, who also organise triathlons as well but most of the 10ks tend to be organised by town councils or other local groups. I don’t know for certain but it feels like most races are organised by clubs or bodies which organise one or a year.

As a member of a club there are a lot of competitive club races. In the summer we do evening 10k road races and in the winter lots of very muddy cross country. These are clubs running against each other, everyone in their club vests. They tend to be much more low key events, ie roads not closed and not chip timed.

Dan racing in London

Dan racing in London

What are the big races?

The biggest race is the London Marathon. It is televised live on BBC1 and is the centre piece on British running. If someone knows you run, their first question is ‘Are you doing/have you done the London Marathon?’ The Great North Run (and other regional Great runs) are also hugely popular.

My favourite are locally organised 10ks, it’s a distance that I can do on a normal amount of training, I like the atmosphere. Also I tend to finish quite high up which is good for my ego.

What’s new on the scene?

parkrun is one of the biggest new developments here. It’s a national movement, offering free, timed 5k races in parks in pretty much every city and town in the country. They are great, and are really good at getting people into running. There’s been research to show that loads of the people who run them have done nothing else. They have a great range and can get really quite tasty at the front end. Someone needs to introduce them to the States. Both I and many people I know use them as they’re a great way of getting a hard run in and be done by 9:30 in the morning, which gives time for other commitments. Cat’s note: there are 3 parkruns in the USA.

Another growing trend is triathlon, which is the fastest growing participation sport and one where the UK has world and Olympic champions. Lots of people who run will also be dipping their toes in those waters.

Britain has a great tradition of club running which formed the basis of the days when 3 of the men’s 1500m finalists would be British. Although club running is still strong it hasn’t really succeeded in tapping into the boom going on, though clubs try.

My club runs a beginners’ course that takes people from nothing to 5k and something like 80% of participants then join the club,  and my local parkrun has links to another local club who encourage people to make the leap and join.

If you could recommend one UK race to a traveller, which would it be and why?

I think if you’re visiting the UK and are here on a Saturday I would recommend doing a parkrun. It is really easy to register and you can find them online… just turn up and run. A great way to meet UK runners.

Is Trail Running big in the UK?

There are trail races but trail running in the way you mean in California isn’t a big thing. I think it’s probably to do with the different type of terrain. In the US you can find  wilderness-like terrain quite close to big cities in a way you don’t have in the UK.

I always intend to run some National Trust routes (an organization that preserves historical stately homes and grounds),  that are very scenic but have never quite got round to it. I’ve never heard really of people running those kind of routes just because they’re there.

Fell running is a crazy part of running that predates the more recent running boom. I was up in Yorkshire visiting my Uncle a couple of years ago and we came across a fell race. It was basically up a cliff and back down again. Something for mad northerners, not suitable for soft southerners.

Cat’s note: Just a quick addition. The UK’s biggest trail running magazine recently relaunched and I got an online subscription. It looks like trail running is growing quite dramatically at the moment – the Peak District, Yorkshire and the beautiful Lake District are the most popular areas! Scott Jurek and Ricky Gates recently ran there and loved it. 

What are the cool brands out there at the moment?

Good question. There are lots of specialist running shops, of varying quality. The best London store is Run and Become in Victoria. In terms of gear it’s all pretty functional, people wear shoes that they like and clothes that are comfortable. I never really get a sense that there’s a fashion element. Maybe there’s a gap in the market.

In my club everyone has Garmin watches, I’m a big fan of running in sunglasses but beyond that everyone just saves that ‘Cool Gear’ side of things for their bikes ;-)

Dan

What media is popular?

The biggest running magazine is Runners World UK. Athletics Weekly Magazine is exactly what it sounds like, and has pages and pages of club race results. Apart from that, the magazines all seem to be aimed at beginners, and don’t seem to want to cover the sport side of it at all. I feel like there’s a gap in the market, something like the running equivalent of ProCycling magazine. There’s a new magazine called Like the Wind that is trying to carve out a niche, but it’s a very small venture so far.

In terms of podcasts, the biggest podcast I think is Marathon Talk, which does a great job of linking the elite world with recreational runners.

Who are people’s running heroes in the UK?

The people love Mo (Farrah) , and Paula (Radcliffe)  and Jess (Ennis, Gold Medal Heptathlete). Having the Olympics was an amazing experience. However it probably got oversold in terms of “legacy”, which is the word that got used all the time to justify the spending. At times it seemed like it was being promised that after the Olympics, everyone would be out doing sports they’d seen during the Olympics. Every time there’s a news story on how little exercise people take there’s lots of tutting about what ever happened to legacy.

The BBC make a big push for athletics and there’s actually quite a lot of track and field on TV, and there’s much more scope for people to become household names from track and field in the UK than in the US.

However recreational/club running doesn’t hugely run into being a fan. I find that on runs with my club mates they are much more eager to talk about Premiership football than, say the latest Diamond League meeting, much to my frustration as I’m a huge Track fan.

In terms of heroes, we’ve never quite got over Coe/Ovett/Cram (British track stars from the 1980s). They probably occupy the same place as Steve Prefontaine does in the States.

How does running social media work in the UK?

Twitter and Facebook are very popular in the running world.  One of the good things is that even relatively famous athletes are still small scale enough that they will tweet you about stuff. Tom Bedford is a race director, and son of former 10,000m world record holder, Dave Bedford  and he’s always good value on twitter, but to be honest I follow US stuff a lot; Let’s Run, House of Run, Flotrack, that sort of thing.

What do UK runners use to fuel with and hydrate with during long runs?

Pretty standard I’d say… gels and drinks. My favourite gels are GU caffeinated. My longest long runs at the moment are only just over an hour so I’m not taking nutrition at the moment.

If I landed in your city/the UK, where would you send me to find out about local running routes/group runs etc?

Hard to say because London is huge. I’d just find a local park and run round it. London streets are not a grid so if you’re coming from the US don’t think you can just run round the block. There are stories of people getting very lost indeed.

Cat’s note: if you’re staying in Central London, I always recommend Hyde Park or along the Thames for some pretty fantastic sights. And don’t forget walkjogrun.net which is my personal favourite resource for finding new routes.

What’s the best thing and the worst thing about running in the UK?

The best thing is that people do it – the world would be a better place if everyone ran. The worst? The dogs tend to get in your way!

Thanks so much Dan for your help in pulling this together. You can follow Dan on Twitter here.

You can read other Running The World interviews HERE.

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