Tag Archives: Marathon



Big Ben

The social media scene has sprouted an online revolution enabling like minded individuals to communicate with each other in a way that had not been experienced before. It was on Facebook that I came across an unusual opportunity that made me say, ‘I’ve gotta do that’.I had been invited to a Facebook Group of runners that were going to run the London Marathon in reverse. That doesn’t mean running backwards it meant getting up in the middle of the night, traipsing up to London to meet fellow runners and then trace the London Marathon route in reverse aiming to finish as close to 0800 as possible. That way, some people would then be able to run the official London Marathon route later on.

What appealed was that I could then run home as well and be home in time for a late breakfast.

If you want low key then this was really low key. Turn up at the end of The Mall at any time from 0200 at half hourly slots and then run in a group. I envisaged a 4 hour marathon going really easy plus I had a few miles further to get home. So I chose a 0330 start.

It’s an interesting journey taking the train into London at 0200 and it’s not quiet at all. Obviously, there were a few drunks, there were a few tourists making connecting journeys and some shift workers making their way to work. There were even some people in London Marathon uniforms heading up to do their duty.

Exiting Victoria station and being in running gear made me conspicuous to another runner who asked me ‘are you doing the Reverse?’ We joined forces to jog over to The Mall. Now that was not as easy as it might seem. You see, there were lots of security guys out in their rain ponchos, because it was actually hammering it down, who were guarding the entrance to the finish line on the Mall. Clearly, security had been stepped up in the wake of Boston.

After a very circuitous route we got to the end of The Mall where a small group of runners were getting ready, aha so that is where we start. It was a bit like meeting up for a club run, some small talk, some stretching, checking gear and off we go. The 0330 start was a small group of around 9 people, but very shortly on another guy and myself found ourselves running at a similar pace and decided to just press on rather than loop back. Past Big Ben, Tower of London, out towards Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs where you were able to run in the road and follow the blue line. Back towards Tower Bridge and the mile markers kept clicking by. Of course there were no water or Lucozade stops so you need to make sure you are well equipped to last 26.2 miles under your own steam.

The interesting thing about this run was that first of all you run through the night and see dawn break which is always a magnificent feeling and secondly it’s a way to experience what goes on behind the scenes of a big city marathon. All the way round through the middle of the night there are hundreds of people setting up all sorts of stuff, advertising billboards, drink stands, the balloons across the road at each mile marker, lorries full of drinks dispensing their goods to the drink stations, security and police at various points along the course. It truly gives you a sense of the full scale and organisation that is required for these events, in a way the unsung heroes. But throughout that whole journey not one question to us about – why the hell are you running in the middle of the night?

Heading through Greenwich and running past the Cutty Sark and out towards Blackheath and the start and the setting up activity was at full speed. Blackheath was opening up as I ran down that famous start line towards the gates. I even threw my arms up in the air in celebration as I crossed the start line. I had done a loop back earlier on to make up for the lost section at the Mall but it was still not quite 26.2 miles at the start line. I continued my journey out of Blackheath and towards Lewisham where I picked up the trail that heads back to Croydon along the river through to Beckenham and past Croydon Arena. A great day out and still a chance to see the start of the London Marathon!

There is also an opportunity to do a reverse of Beachy Head in October if you can’t wait until next April.

All images copyright – Ian Campbell Photography




As ultra runners we are truly obsessed with getting miles in as we focus on a target race. But of course we ultra runners need to run big miles and sometimes those big miles just need to be run at whatever pace you can do them in. But, you tempt yourself into that potentially ever declining circle of running at the same pace and getting slower and slower. What is required? A sharp injection of a different type of running that will freshen up and pimp your ride.

I am training for Comrades, yeah I’ve said it publicly now! There is a great deal of road running involved with this one, in fact all of it, you don’t say. I originally came from a road marathon background and then found ultras and the love of trails, so naturally I gravitated to running most of my miles off road. What’s wrong with that I hear you say? Well, if truth be told, that along with the steady ageing process, that I can’t do anything about, had made me a slower runner. I had neglected to do anything about it as my focus had been miles and having fun on the trails.

Like seeing a long lost first love of your life, I have rekindled a love of road running. There is simplicity in this form of running. You only need a limited amount of gear – running shoes, shorts and shirt, no backpacks, no head-torch, no compulsory gear and no trail shoes. To my surprise it’s like exploring again. In the same way that I found a love of trails and that ‘what’s round the corner’ surprise, I’ve come to enjoy and explore the environment and roads around where I live. True, I tend to only go out very early in the morning so the roads are empty of cars and people – but it’s truly reawakened my view of road running.

I’m back with a vengeance. I am running lots of road miles, seeking out hills and long climbs, pounding down hills trashing my quads and churning out interval sessions. I’m having a lot of fun just running on road and I’ve got faster. And do you know what I threw in the other day to liven it all up? – a trail run – and it just felt truly wonderful exploring something that I had not seen for quite a while.

Do something different with your running, enter a different type of race, train somewhere different, throw in a new type of session – just remember you can always go back to what you love but you might find something else that you love just as much. Happy running!

All images copyright – Ian Campbell Photography




A recent training session for the day was 6 x 1/2 mile hill repeats at 6% incline with 4 – 5 minute jog recoveries and a warm down run. It’s a hard workout where you are pushing the efforts on the uphills.

Peaks Views 1 - IMG_2331

Some proper hills in the Peak District!

But, I couldn’t quite find a decent enough hill where I was at the time. That didn’t mean I scratched the work out, I just substituted it to get the same training effect. So what did I do?

  • 1 mile warm up
  • 10 x 500m hill repeats with fast downhills to work the quads
  • 8 mile undulating with last mile at recovery pace

Now, it’s not easy knowing you are going to have to do 10 x 500m hill repeats, so I set out to do four. Then when I got there I added another two and then it was easy I just said to myself lets get to ten.  The treat at the end was to have a really good eight mile run after you’ve warmed up doing a few hill repeats. Fourteen miles in total. Not bad for a Monday night.

And the eight miles seemed easy compared to the hill repeats!  Train hard, train smart.






Team RUN-FAST – out for a training run in London – super fast half marathon and marathon runners!

Unbelievably we are already six weeks into 2015. That leaves about two and half months or ten weeks, or to really focus the mind, seventy training days left, not including any taper time, to nail that spring marathon. Where on earth did the time go I hear you say?

If you haven’t quite got your training in order yet, it’s time to address that and get in some consistent weeks of training over the next eight weeks. That leaves you two weeks of taper before your spring marathon.

I have found out this year, since I got myself a coach, that more focus on quality over quantity and making those training sessions count produces results. So where I would have run every day and done a 5, 6 or 7 mile session at whatever pace I considered appropriate, now my training is more likely to be a 10 mile progression run or an 8 mile hill session and there are guilt free recovery days included,. The most important thing I have really benefited from by having a coach is the level of accountability it brings to your training (and really to yourself). Whilst I was disciplined in running almost every day it brings a deeper level of commitment knowing that you will have to at sometime tell your coach what you have been up to or not for that matter! And whilst they are not your mother, father or your schoolteacher it’s going to be a bit lame just saying ‘I didn’t feel like it on that day’.

A good coach will guide you through the appropriate training plan, mentor you and assist you through the ups and downs (mainly the downs!) for when it doesn’t go to plan. Remember, the plan is the ideal world but its not reality and obviously things happen in our lives that impact the training that you would like to do, like you get ill, you have family or work commitments that mean you have to reschedule or drop training sessions, or you are just plain over tired and need a rest. When it doesn’t go to plan it can all feel overwhelming, thinking that you have failed and that your objective race will not be achievable and that you must catch up those miles (btw – big mistake!) but a good coach will guide you through that with skill and advise you on what options you have and guide you with the best course of action. It may simply be that you carry on with your training plan or its altered in some way to take into account the dropped training sessions.

I guess the point is that if you are following a marathon plan and you don’t have a coach and you suddenly find yourself not keeping up with what is on the schedule its not a calamity. But, it’s a great idea to get advice and not let it worry you. Get on the runners forums, if you are a member of a running club talk to others with experience for their advice or just get yourself a coach, its never too late!

All images are copyright – Ian Campbell – Photography



I guess if you ask any runner that question most, if not all, would say a resounding yes. But what are you doing about it?

Petro Mamu

Petro Mamu finishing Limone Extreme in 2014 – beating Kilian Jornet to the line!

First of all, what is your definition of getting faster? Is it to run a mile faster, is it to run a PB at a certain distance or is it improving your overall efficiency as a runner and as a product of that becoming a faster runner? They are very different things and as such require a different approach to achieve the desired result. The answer is probably in the specificity of your training plan but there is quite a lot of overlap between those three objectives. So lets look at a mile.

How to run a mile faster?

Let’s say your mile time is 8 minutes. How do you get faster? It’s more than likely going to be a combination of various training sessions and targets that will help you achieve your goal.   You will want to increase your speed, strength and economy. You will obviously have to take into account your age, training level and set a realistic but challenging target. SMART thinking comes to mind.

  • Speed – to cover the distance faster
  • Strength – to ensure you have the strength to maintain the speed
  • Economy – to enable you to run efficiently at speed
  • Time – you need a period of time to build up

Training for these attributes would probably look something like this.

  • Track/Road Workouts and/or Fartlek sessions (typically once or twice a week) – building up consistent times for reps of 200m, 400m, 800m, 1,200m, 1,600m and even 2,000m. Two miles repeats are also a good session to build up specific strength and endurance.
  • Threshold Runs (typically once or twice a week) – These are paced to increase your running economy at intensity. Typically run at ten mile or half marathon pace.
  • Long Runs (typically once a week) – Long runs to build strength and endurance and improve running economy.
  • Recovery – Either days off or a gentle recovery run or cross training.
  • Races – Perhaps try some races at 3,000m or even 5,000m. Focus on achieving consistent lap times.
  • Buy New Kit – I have always found a placebo effect from wearing new running kit but it doesn’t seem to last long!

Note: At marathon distance and longer you would not tend to run the full distance of the event in training but ‘time on feet’ would become more important.

Now, I am not training to improve my mile time, although that would be an added bonus, the point of this is that depending on what your goals are for your focus races, you should incorporate a variety of training sessions and specificity in your schedule to give you the best chance of achieving your goal. Whether your goal is completing the distance or improving your PB or indeed racing against others for the podium, you have less chance of getting there without a training plan and most importantly putting some specificity into your training.

What I have discovered is that sometimes you need that injection into your training to take it away from the staleness of just running. I did that recently by getting myself a coach. It’s slowly transforming my running away from the boring schedule that I had of running countless miles and to a journey that has milestones and objectives. Get yourself a coach to inject some life into your training. You will thank me for it!

Note : the above is purely my opinion and thoughts on getting faster. Please consult a coach!!! 

All images are copyright – Ian Campbell – Photography





Its mid January and we are well into marathon training season. Have you noticed something recently? When I get on a train in the morning I am more likely to be standing next to a lycra clad runner than a booted and suited city worker. When I am running along the banks of the River Thames I am more than likely not going to be the only runner, in fact some mornings its like the start of a race as those aforementioned lycra clad runners bundle themselves through the ticket barriers and ready their GPS watches to start running and doing their early morning run commute.

Run commuting is an easy way to fit in some extra mileage into your program and not waste that commuting time. There are a number of interesting ways to fit that run into your daily commute, are you going to…..

  • Run to the station
  • Run from the station
  • Run instead of getting the train or bus
  • Run to a station further up the line
  • Get off earlier than your destination and run

Run commuting takes a little bit of preparation and organisation, first of all, you need to plan your actual journey, will you have to purchase a different ticket, what route will you choose for your run section, what pack will you take and how much do you need to carry, what about shower facilities. Can you leave stuff at work or at a gym to ease the weight of the pack.

Big Ben

Shot of the Houses of Parliament taken at 0630

It can seem a little bit daunting and perhaps just not worth the effort, but from someone who has been doing it for a number of years I can tell you its fun, rewarding and you get to see some extraordinary things and it makes you walk tall for the rest of the day knowing you’ve put in a decent training session. I remember walking into the office one morning and someone asked me if I had been for a run. Of course I said yes. Usually that was end of the conversation, but it just so happened that morning I was asked where from so I said from home. Oh do you live nearby? …. yes, about 14 miles away… it’s a nice cycle path in for about 9 miles or so and then on roads. Wow, you ran 14 miles? Ermm… actually not today I decided to add on an extra loop to make it up to 20. Silence!!!

On the practical side you need to make sure that your run commute is a planned piece of running in the same way that you break up your weekly training sessions. So, are you on a recovery day, or is it a tempo session, fartlek run etc. Obviously, the more pack weight your carrying determines to some extent what relative speed you can run at, so if you regularly run your tempo session at 8 min mile pace and you are carrying a pack of 6 to 8kg then its going to impact your times. Depending on what you are training for a pack can help. Lets say your goal race is hilly and mountainous and your training routes are relatively flat. Carrying a pack will help in your training for that event.

Some practical tips :

  • Choose a small running pack. More space means more temptation to carry more stuff that will ultimately slow you down.
  • Pack your bag the night before. Its so, so easy to not do your run the next morning if you haven’t packed the kit the night before. There is also a good chance that your going to forget something as well.  Don’t get persuaded by the weather or just through the hustle and bustle of the morning to avoid the chance to run, pack the night before so you can get straight out.
  • Choose and plan your route and intended pace. Is it going to fit in with your days training plan, if not, can you adapt?
  • Check the weather forecast the night before.  Will you have the right kit for tomorrow? is it going to be cold or raining, do you need that extra layer, gloves or rain jacket?
  • Be careful of other runners! So often I have been deviated from my intended run pace by another runner who passes by and then I get dragged into a race. It’s fun at the time of course, but if it’s not a planned fast session it’s eating into your recovery. Funny, but on these occasions you never run slower, it’s always faster!
  • Try, try and try to minimize the amount you are carrying. Can you leave some stuff in the office or at a locker in your gym. Things that are heavy and can be typically left in an office or left out completely, Shoes, Suit Jacket, Coat, Laptop, Towel, Shower Gel & Deodorant.
  • Keep it all dry. Make sure you keep clothes and stuff you want dry wrapped up in your pack. Most packs are not really waterproof enough to survive a downpour. Plastic shopping bags are a cheap alternative to the good dry bags you can buy at a decent outdoor shop.
  • Access to cash, credit cards etc. Have train tickets, credit cards and some cash easily available either in the waist belt pocket that is on your pack or get one of those light waist belts. Much easier than fumbling to get at these items at the station ticket barrier with hordes of people behind you muttering away.

Above all – have fun with the run commute – it’s so rewarding to know you have done your training session before the days work starts.


All images copyright – Ian Campbell – Photography


The long-range weather forecast for the UK predicts lots of wet and windy weather for the rest of January. There might even be some drier and frosty spells in February. But will those in the south of the country receive any snow? Doesn’t sound like it.

Race Ultra Vest with kit packed

The average temperature in the UK between the months of December to February, which is known as the meteorological winter, is around 6C to 8C. At the moment it’s more above 8C than below.

So for those of you out running it’s been unseasonably pleasant temperatures and it looks like it’s going to stay that way. But, if you are out running early in the morning or late in the evening on the roads it’s not necessarily that warm so you need to go out prepared.

Here are a few of my own tips for running gear during this period if you are out running a session that is anything longer than say 90 minutes or so. Obviously, if you are on trail and its dark t’s a different kettle of fish!

  1. Rain Jacket. A lightweight but warm rain jacket. Something that is not too bulky and can be packed away if you get too warm but will be required when the rain or wind picks up and you need that little bit of extra protection.
  2. Leggings. All over leg protection and warmth. If you are out running early in the morning or late in the evening even though the average temperatures are higher the temperatures at either end of the day drop considerably and it’s so easy to pull muscles when you are colder!
  3. Hydration. If you are out for anything longer than 60 or 90 minutes consider taking some hydration. Either a handheld or backpack hydration system. Or if you are doing a loop course, stow a bottle away that you can easily retrieve halfway.
  4. Hat.  You lose a great deal of body heat through the head. That said, when you are running you need to be able to regulate your heat as your body overheats through intensity or as the weather changes. Does your rain jacket have a hood? Sometimes that will be good enough but it’s also nice to have the option of a lightweight skullcap in the side of your pack or in a waist belt or pocket.
  5. Head torch. If you are running off road on trails and in the dark then no doubt you already have a head torch with you. If not, why not! But, do you need one running on road at night. I say yes. A small lightweight one like the Petzl eLite is always useful. It weighs practically nothing but if your route takes you through unlit streets it may help you avoid tripping on a fallen branch or in a pothole. See the next tip.
  6. Bright Reflective Gear. I see it a lot but there are loads of runners out there at night in black. Now, they might have some little reflective pieces on their gear but how quickly will a car driver notice you, especially against oncoming headlights. Give yourself the best chance of not being the next road victim, wear some bright reflective gear, either one of those luminous arm bands, a head torch, or a hi-vis shirt or jacket.
  7. Emergency Money. Carry enough money or cards to be able to get you home in the event that you get lost or injured.
  8. Phone. Obvious, but if you are lost or injured a phone can help you out of a lot of awkward situations. Use the map or compass for directions or just phone home to be picked up while you wait in a pub with a beer (paid for with your emergency money)!

Most of this gear can be packed away in a waist belt or a lightweight backpack. If you are out for 60 or 90 minutes and you get lost or have to stop due to injury your body temperature will drop quickly and anything you can do to keep warm will help to make your journey back home a much safer and more enjoyable experience.  Be safe and enjoy the wonderful world outside!




Active Patch 4U – is it a worthwhile investment and does it work?   At a time of year when you are considering and entering races to do for the coming season and your probably well into base training whether that be running or a cross training activity, some of us are injured. Now its sort of okay over the Christmas and New Year period as other things tend to take over, but when your itching to get back into training and your injured it plays on your mind, all those lost days and how many weeks it will take to get back to some semblance of fitness. That’s when you start to ramp up your injury physiotherapy, rehabilitation exercises and indeed anything else that will get you back as quick as possible.  Well how about Active Patch 4U?

Active Patch 4U is a French based company created by founders Arnaud Tortel and Jacques Casper from an original idea by Casper and a collaboration between the two in 2009 that leads to 4 years of further research before the patch is put into production and branded Active Patch 4U.

Tortel is a physiotherapist and polar explorer who has knowledge of Chinese acupuncture. Casper who had developed the membrane idea in 2008 fine tunes the membrane size and concentration to achieve optimal results to the eventual patch you see now.


Out of the box – Key Statistics

The patches can be ordered in boxes of 8, 16, 24, 40 or 100
They come in a number of colours, flesh, turquoise, plum or fuchsia.
Patch Size – 9.8 cm x 5 cm


Depending on quantity ordered the patches are approx Eur 2 each.

Latest prices – Pack of 8 – Eur 19.90, pack of 16 – Eur 35.90, pack of 24 – Eur 49.90, pack of 40 – Eur 79.90 and pack of 100 – Eur 179.90

Active Patch 4U versus a AA battery


These patches are based on an acupuncture principal and so you usually need between three and four patches for any treatment. The Active Patch 4U website has an excellent self help zone for guidance in how to use and apply the patches. They are primarily for joint and muscle problems.

Here is list of typical applications.

Ankle, Knee, Hip, Hands, Elbow, Shoulder, Lumber Region, Cervical Region and Dorsal Region.

The Active Patch 4U team have enlisted a series of well known trail and ultra running athletes to lead the way in testing the patches. Kilian Jornet, Emelie Forsberg, Ricky Lightfoot, Tim Olson, Anton Krupicka, Anna Frost, Julien Chorier, Stevie Kremer and Francois d’Haene to name but a few. What would be really interesting is to see if mainstream athletics such as track and field would start to use the patches and endorse them?

Field Test

Treatments – I have used the patches on several occasions for the following issues.

  • Discomfort linked to the stability of the ankle
  • Discomfort in the calf
  • Discomfort on the top of the foot and toes
  • Discomfort in the hamstrings

Application of the patches was followed as per the website diagrams. I am a great believer that health is all in the mind, so a sort of placebo effect is important. If you invested several pounds in the patches you have to believe in their success. I would also advocate that the patches are used as part of a holistic approach to healing. You cannot just rely on sticking a few patches on and think that in a day or two it will go away. Seek and use other healing processes whether that is stretching, physiotherapy or just even rest.

In all my cases, the injury was resolved within a few days. What did I like about these patches? They are easy to carry around with you if you are traveling, they last for at least five days quite well even after being soaked in showers everyday and that does not detract from their stickiness.

There is a whole other facet to these patches in their use as preventive treatment. To date, I have not done this but as I have had recurrent ankle injuries I am going to embark on some preventative measures with the patches and see the outcome. The trouble with this is that there are so many variables that one could not for sure really attribute it to just the patches. But surely that is what it is about? , these patches are part of an armoury you can use to prevent, treat and have a successful running career and isn’t that what everyone is seeking!!

Latest update : December 2014 – With a another, this time left leg, hamstring issue and some physiotherapy and rehabilitation exercises done without total success I am now embarking on some patch treatment. I believe in these little patches so will be aiming to get back to training in very early January 2015.

All images are copyright Ian Campbell – Photography



The Thames Meander Marathon took place this last Saturday. Organised by Hermes Running the race is set as the name would suggest along the River Thames. I completed it in a rather slow 04:02:20, but, it was only a week since I had done the Beachy Head Marathon and back from that ankle injury!

Starting on the outskirts of Kingston Upon Thames the race meanders along the tow path through some beautiful riverside scenery.  This weekend there was a rowing regatta, so lots of rowing clubs out on the water with supporters cheering loudly along the banks, just watch out for those cyclists who seem to hare along the towpaths expecting pedestrians and runners alike to make way as they look fixedly on the water and not in the direction of travel!

The race started at 0915 just after the local Park-Run had set off, so they got a massive cheer from the 300+ people waiting to start the marathon.  David Ross (RD) gave an inspirational speech and the marathon started with a quick out and back westwards and then we came back past the start gantry to commence the 24+ miles of out and back eastwards.  The weather was unseasonably warm but started off with a light shower that eased off quite quickly to really quite glorious weather, unbelievable for November.

Coming straight off an up and down course like Beachy Head it was hard going to just keep running. I found my quads tiring at around 20 miles or so. (note to self – must get some long flat runs in – oh Saxon Shore Marathon in three weeks – that will do!)

This course is really as flat as a pancake and therefore no excuse to stop as evidenced by the winning time of Ed Catmur (02:36:46) which just shows you how fast this course can be.  Top three men’s and women’s results below. Full results on this link.  Hermes Running.

 Men’s Result

Place Name Time
1st Ed Catmur 02:36:46
2nd Martin Proctor 02:51:28
3rd Andrew Clark 02:58:26

 Women’s Result

Place Name Time
1st Wendy Roberts 03:13:06
2nd Caroline Jackson 03:20:53
3rd Charley Jennings 03:21:38