Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Turning to the Darkside!

Well in my last post I said I was still feeling the effects from my last long run.

I’d rested over the last weekend and instead decided to run this week.

First thing to say was I’ve decided for the next couple of runs to wear conventional shoes…. Shock horror I hear you say! Due to my main issue being an “over use” foot injury I took the decision that I could actually benefit from some increased cushioning (see normal shoes do have a place still).

I’d conducted a short 4 mile “test run” earlier in the week with no serious results so decided I’d go for it. Well due to wearing non-barefoot shoes for this long run I decided rather than post nothing I’d write a little article on managing long runs into your schedule.

As I’m ultra marathon training, as a result need to fit a long run into my training at least once a week (approx.. 20 miles). Well I serve in the Army reserve and this takes up some of my weekends so I find myself having to be a little creative in my routine.

What I find works for me is running to work. I know this doesn’t sound that difficult but if you work in an office like me then this is actually logistically difficult. I have a large heavy laptop which I can’t really leave at the office in case I need to work from home and this time of year it’s cold and dark early.

I live 12 miles from work so have a couple of options to get my long run in. Option 1 is run to work then run home…. This means getting up at stupid o’clock and getting home late. Option 2 is grab a lift to work and run home. Option 1 gets the distance but in two parts and causes a lot if disruption. Where option 2 is simpler but doesn’t cover the miles required. I chose option 2 but simply added a small loop when I got home.

The other main factors as mentioned were how do I carry back my laptop, getting it back in one piece and the fact it would be cold, dark with snow and ice on the ground. Many people including my wife would say it’s silly even thinking about this and they’d be correct but moving on!

I decided to use my small Inov-8 Race pack as I could fit my laptop in there with not much else which would stop it from moving around too much. I used a waterproof dry bag and padded it out with some warm kit just in case.

The other issue is being seen. Even though most of my route is on footpaths there are many sections close to roads and I’d be finishing in complete darkness. I’d brought a new head torch as some of the ultras I’d entered would be finished in the dark and so I planned to test this on the run.

Below is my complete kit list for the run….

Commuting Winter Running Kit list

Hilly Wool Reversible Hat (Dark one side , Lumi the other)
Generic Technical Short Sleeve T-Shirt (Souvenir of some past race)
Endura Arm Warmers (Didn’t like the idea but worn a few times now and love them)
Ultimate Performance Wind Stopper Gloves (Brought for me by my wife at Running Show at Sandown)
JJB Lumi Windproof Gillett (cheap)
Ron Hill Tracksters (Army Issue)
Wicking under crackers (Army Issue from Afghan)
Cheap Cool Max Socks
Magnum Multicam V-Lite Off-Road shoes
Inov-8 12 Litre Race Pack
Dry Bag
Zinc Oxide Tape (Essential Nipple Protection!)
Alpkit Gamma Head Torch (Probably the best £15 you can spend)
Hilly 600ml Handheld Water bottle (Again hated the idea of holding anything when running, now like it)
3 x Carb Gels
Sub Zero Mid Layer Warm Thermal Top (carried in pack)
Decathlon Gore-Tex Running Jacket (carried on outside of pack)

I decided to show the kit list for the benefit of anyone thinking about commuter running or just longer winter runs.

Probably the most important factor though is route selection. Its easy to forget in the winter that a run in the afternoon can easily finish in the dark and if there’s no street lighting and you’re in the middle of nowhere, then it could be an issue? Also the weather. Its Britain…. You could be running in July and encounter a hail stone storm so who knows what it could be like in the winter, 4 seasons in one day was written about this country!

For route selection I always use an online tool by Ordinance Survey called Getamap. Its £20 per year and use mark out routes and create custom maps as much as you like. You should at least tell someone the route you are planning to run just in case.

Well the run itself went well. The head torch was amazing and is easily good enough for night time trail runs. The snow and ice wasn't that bad either. I used common sense and ran on the roads where I could as these had been treated, just make sure you are visible early to oncoming traffic.

The worst parts were getting home to drop off my laptop where it was nice and warm then heading out into what was now sub-zero temperatures. It was so cold that the sweat I was producing was actually freezing! The only time I'd been as cold as this was marathon training in the Austrian Mountains!

This week I plan to have a couple of shorts runs combined with a single long run Saturday which I’m hoping will be 30 miles! This will have been the longest training run so far. The route at the moment is along the Blackwater and Chelmer Canal from Chelmsford to Heybridge Basin which should be at least flat like my next ultra but with all the recent rain could be interesting.

In the Army they have a phrase “time in recce is seldom wasted”, this is also true for runners!


  1. Any affects from going back to your regular shoes?

  2. Gary.... Do you know I was actually going to write a short update on this but this will save me the effort :)

    YES! in short I believe. I used to suffer from medium PF and that went when I switch, well I've noticed that this has come back slightly and has happen previously when I switched back.

    Also I'm getting increased joint pain from the op I had in my foot.

    I plan to switch back to Trail Gloves tomorrow for a short run then do my next long run in minimals.

    I'll keep you posted.