Daegu Worlds – My Thoughts


Usain Bolt takes 200m Gold*

Whilst just quietly getting on with my 3 runs a week, I was glued to the box for the last week of August for the IAAF World Championship in Athletics in Daegu, Korea. I’ve been pretty busy since hence no updates, but I thought I’d better post my thoughts before we get into the Autumn Marathon season!

Team GB

Philips Idowu lead early on but had to settle for Silver*

Great Britain’s head coach Charles van Comenee set a target of 7 Medals including 1 Gold which was met, with the team taking 2 Gold, 4 Silver and 1 Bronze. This is in line with medal hauls during the “golden era”, and joint 3rd highest of all time. It’s important to note that GB took NO relay medals – something which is often Britain’s strong suit. Whilst this is a poor performance, it does show the current strength and variety of GB’s individual athletes that they still hit the medal target.

  • Gold: Mo Farah – 5000m, Dai Greene – 400m Hurdles
  • Silver: Jess Ennis – Heptathlon, Mo Farah – 10 000m, Hannah England 1500m, Philips Idowu – Triple Jump
  • Bronze: Andy Turner – 110m Hurdles

There were some disappointments, notably European and World medalist Jenny Meadows failing to make the 800m final, and Philips Idowu and Jessica Ennis failed to retain their Golds from 2009, both getting silver. Much has been made of Jess’ poor Javelin throw, but she would have had to equal her PB to win – in both cases, the Brits performed superbly but were beaten by better athletes.

Likewise, Mo Farah‘s 10 000m Silver medal was seen as a failure, despite the fact that he’d never before medalled on the world stage – his best finish being 6th. He silenced all doubters by holding off the fast finishing American Bernard Lagat, and Ethiopians Deriba Merga and Dejen Gebremeskel to win 5000m  Gold in style. Despite coming second to Ibrahim Jeilan in the 10, he cemented his position as World number one distance runner this year, and probably the best Great Britain has ever produced (thanks must go to his American coach, former marathon legend Alberto Salazar).

The Medal Table

Team USA is victorious in the women's 4x100m*

GB came 6th in the medal table, with medals coming from across a range of events. As usual the leading countries relied on dominating their specailist events. Whilst the USA and Russia medalled in a variety of events alongside their strong suits, Jamaica won all it’s medals in sprints and Kenya in distance (although it missed out on the podium in the men’s 5000 & 10 000m). Distance running rival Ethiopia performed poorly, getting only one gold.

  1. USA 25 – Sprints (14), Jumps (5)
  2. Russia 19 – Race Walks (6), Jumps (4)
  3. Kenya 17 – Middle Distance (7), Women’s Long Distance (5), Marathons (5)
  4. Jamaica 9 – Sprints (9)
  5. Germany 7 – Throws (5)

Controversy

Oscar Pistorius reached the 400m Semis*

The new disqualification rule for false starts  (immediate DQ, no warning) caused a media sensation when global superstar Usain Bolt was caught out in the 100m final. Earlier, Brits Christine Ohurogu and Dwain Chambers suffered the same fate. The IAAF shot itself in the foot by catching athletics’ best known name out – his disqualification was bigger news than compatriot Yohan Blake‘s victory in his absence. The rules will no doubt change once more, returning to a yellow and red card system, where any second false start in a race will result in disqualification of the second (or subsequent) false-starter.

The arguments over Oscar Pistorius right to compete against non-disabled athletes, and whether his carbon fibre legs give him an unfair advantage were still in full swing as he raced his way to the 400m semi-finals. I have no idea whether he has a real advantage. I can see that he runs a flatter trajectory, and his prostheses will not become less effective as he tires, as legs would. But he has been allowed to compete by the IAAF, like Caster Semenya before him, and once you are cleared that must be the end of the discussion. He was unlikely to win it, being almost a second down compared to top runners – a lot in sprints, and I think diversity and media attention are an excellent thing for the sport.

On a lighter note it was nice to see Libyan marathon runner Ali El Zaidi racing in his country’s new colours!

Channel 4 UK Coverage

Micheal Johnson, in his on-track days (from Channel 4 Website, click for source)

I know Ortis Deley got a lot of flack for his bumbling presenting (and was ‘sacked’ from the anchor role). He just seemed a bit out of his depth with live TV and obviously hadn’t done his track and field homework. I remember him as a children’s presenter, a role for which he was better suited. Rick Edwards, who took over from Delay was much more comfortable in the anchor role. He carried on presenting the highlights show as well and looked nackered doing 10am-2pm and 7-11pm shifts! All their pundits were excellent; Dean Macey, Iwan Thomas and Micheal Johnson in particular.

My Top Athletes in Daegu:

Mo Farah takes a moment to reflect on winning 5000m Gold*

  • Male Distance: Mo Farah – 5000m Gold and 10 000m Silver
  • Male Sprint: Usain Bolt aside, Kim Collins – 100m individual and relay Bronze at 35 years old!
  • Male Field: Christian Taylor – triple jumped 17.96m for Gold, beating favourite Philips Idowu.
  • Female Distance: Vivian Cheruiyot dominantly took 5000 & 10 000m Gold
  • Female Sprints: Sally Pearson technically superb to win 100m hurdles Gold
  • Female Field: Maria Abakumova made Javelin exciting, taking Gold in a duel with Barbara Spotakova.
  • British Male: As I’va already used Mo, Dai Greene proved that endurance and cool sometimes trumps speed in taking 400m hurdles Gold.
  • British Female: Hannah England surprised even herself kicking into Silver position in the 1500m.

Best Victory Celebration:

After Usain Bolt’s false start, Kenyan Steeplechaser Eziekel Kemboi made it up the crowd with this tribal dance meets club moves display. (Russain commentary I think – not that it matters!)


*Photos from IAAF website. Click image for source.
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Running on Holiday


The Vercors Plateau, near Grenoble in the French Alps - the backdrop to my Alpine holiday. (Photo from Wikipedia)

July mileage: 35 (7.5/wk)

I spent the first week of my holidays in the French Alps with friends, and then the second week is in the Netherlands with family. I’m not really a beach holiday kind of guy – mainly because my pasty skin can’t take the sun (I’ve completely given up on getting a tan – ever).

These opposite ends of Europe (above all in terms of altitude and relief) have offered very different training opportunities. In the Alps, I was lucky enough to have access to a swimming pool, so I was in the water two- or three times a day. Since there was hiking to be done as well, I felt I was getting enough exercise and only went running once. I’ve no idea of the time or distance, I just ran up, up and up, then walked down. It felt really nice. Nothing beats the view from the top a mountain (or half way up, as was the case) of  when you’ve got there under your own steam.

In Holland I went running a lot more, every other day, and for 40 min-1 hr (the most I’ve done since my injury). I also had the opportunity to run with my Dad and Sister, which I really enjoy. Besides giving me a different pace to keep with, it was great to spend time with them. You can talk about anything while running, or nothing – there’s no such thing as an awkward silence whilst running. I’ve also been cycling a lot- on my off-days, and also to cool down slowly after some runs- it’s very effective at shaking the ache out of your legs.

Approaching a holiday as a runner can be tricky- do you hit the roads as if you’re at a Kenyan Olympic team training camp? or do you take a week to veg out and let your body recover? do you stick to your training plan or improvise? Much of this depends on your motivation and goals – you’ll probably approach a holiday differently if it’s the week before or the week after a big race.

Oostpoort (East Gate), Delft, The Netherlands - a very different backdrop to run against. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Tips for Running on Holiday

  • Take the opportunity to get out of your usual routine – explore new places and vary your routes. Running is one of the best ways to explore a new place and get off the beaten track, whether you’re in the city or the country.
  • As well as new places, you can train with new people- friends or family you can’t normally run with, local enthusiasts or fellow holiday makers, it’s always beneficially to run at someone else’s pace- faster or slower (as long as it’s manageable).
  • Alternatively, you can use running to get some quiet time alone. I usually need a bit of space and air when I’m staying with family!
  • Use your surroundings for better training: go barefoot on the beach, or trail runs and hill reps in the mountains. Just take it easy if it’s something you’ve not tried before.
  • Unless you have a big race coming up soon, ignore your plan for a week. You will benefit physically, and come back with renewed focus.
  • You might cross-train more than usual when on holiday. If you’re swimming, cycling or hiking on your break, that will improve your fitness. Be sure to consider these activities when planning runs, as you don’t want to exhaust yourself.
  • Try and get your runs in early in the day, while everyone else is dozing. This way you can avoid your running getting in the way of anyone else’s holiday plans.
  • Whether it’s the day before or morning after, you’ll feel less guilty about binging on food and drink if you’re running as well!

Above all, enjoy it- that’s why we take holidays, and that’s also why we run.

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Running in Paris


Arc de Triomphe. As in Rome, the Marathon gave a great opportunity to get shots of landmarks without crowds or cars.

Paris is a famously beautiful city, and the third most visited in the world. It’s known for it’s neat stone Hausmann buildings and great monuments such as the Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame and Arc de Triomphe. But what is Paris like for a runner? I’ve been here 3 years now, and trained for five marathons in that time (Marathon de Paris inclus!), so I think it’s safe to say I know.

Good to Know:

  • Be very careful crossing roads. Even when you have the “Green Man” at a pedestrian crossing, there may be no stop light for the cars! Scooters might swerve but they never stop.
  • Watch out for dog poo. It’s getting better, but many people still don’t pick up what their pooch leaves behind – keep an eye out.
  • Don’t expect other pedestrians to pay the slightest bit of attention when it comes to letting you pass. Tourists and Parisians alike will obliviously walk four abreast, dart suddenly to the left or right, or  stop dead right in front of you for no apparent reason.
  • Most parks are only open in daylight hours only, with summer opening hours typically 8-8, and winter as short as 9-6. So if you’re going for an early or late jog, plan on doing it on the roads.

Top 10 places to Run:

Parc Buttes Chaumont - a hilly green oasis in the 19th Arrondissement

These are, in my opinion, the best places to run in Paris. I’ve put them roughly in order of my personal preference, although some are better for sightseeing and others for serious training…

  • Bois de Vincennes: Paris is flanked by two huge green parks, Vincennes in the East and Boulogne to the West. I prefer Vincennes, with it’s wide open spaces and medieval chateau. One of their main advantages for runners is that they do not close at night, so whether you’re going out at 9pm or 6am you can run.
  • Bois de Boulogne: Paris’ other massive park. This one is more wooded than Vincennes,  you can run around one of the lakes (Lac Inferieur) or one of the two (!) hippodromes (Longchamp) which both have nice circuits around them: around 2 miles of slightly undulating gravel. (Be aware: some parts of the Bois can be a bit seedy)
  • Parc Suzanne Lenglen (15th Arrondissement) This is a relatively new park, specially built for sports. It has an asphalt loop, undulating trail and a synthetic track. It’s open 7am-10pm year round, and is well lit after dark. Probably the best place to go if you want to train seriously in the city.
  • Parc Buttes Chaumont (19th) Unlike most of the Jardins in Paris, Buttes Chaumont is lanscaped – this is the hilliest place you can easily run in Paris. This beautiful park attracts hundreds of joggers – you have to watch where you’re going on a sunny weekend morning! With its hills and tall trees, you feel the impression of “getting away” from the city.
  •  Quais de la Seine: Rive Gauche or Rive Droite, you can’t get much better for sightseeing than the banks of the Seine. Run along them anywhere between the Pont de Grenelle and Bastille and you will be treated to sights such as the Louvre, Place de la Concorde and of course the Eiffel Tower. Don’t plan to make it a fast one though (unless you’re out very early) as the quais get busy.
  • Jardin de Luxembourg (6th) These ornate gardens surround the French Sénat in Paris’ Latin Quarter.
  • Jardin des Plantes (5th) As well as a botanical garden, this park also hosts France’s Natural History Museum and a small zoo. If you’re lucky you’ll see Red Pandas, Wallabies, Camels and Ostriches on your run.
  • Parc Montsouris (14th) Like a mini-Buttes Chaumont, this is a nice little landscaped park in the south of Paris.
  • Jardin de Tuileries (1st) The gardens of the Louvre, right in the middle of the city. As you’d expect, it can get pretty busy.
  • Parc Monceau (8th) You might catch a glimpse of Nicholas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni jogging here!

Click here for to see a map

Top Paris Races:

Me after the 2009 Semi-Marathon de Paris

Want to come and race in Paris? Here’s the pick of the bunch.

  • Marathon de Paris: Run in April. This is one of the top marathons in the world, attracting 30 000-plus runners, many from overseas. It’s widely regarded as one of the most beautiful marathon courses in the world, starting on the Champs Elysees, the last 10km in the Bois de Boulogne are pretty tough though. It operates a first-come, first served entry policy, and early birds get cheaper entry.
  • Semi-Marathon de Paris: Run in March. If you don’t fancy doing the full one, the Semi takes in the western half of the marathon course, between Vincennes and Bastille. Fast and flat.
  • 20km de Paris: Run in October. Effectively the western part of the marathon course, starting at the Eiffel tower, looping the Bois de Boulogne.
  • Paris-Versailles: Run in September. La Grande Classique starts at the Eiffel Tower, racing 10 miles up to the famous Chateau. I mean UP. There is a 2 mile hill climb of over 400 feet at mile 4, and it’s all up and down again from the top.
  • 10km de l’Equipe: Run in June. If you don’t feel up to the other challenges this one’s new this year (I haven’t done it yet) It’s organised by the same team as the marathon, and starts at Bastille, passing Republique and Pére Lachaise Cemetery.
Video of the marathon route:
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Running to be happy – or just happy to be running?


June mileage: 4

I’ve not been posting much recently, things have been a bit hectic in my life – I’ve hardly had time to run, let alone blog about it!

Until today, I hadn’t run for over a week. To begin with I didn’t have time, but wished I did, then I found the time but didn’t feel like it. Although I feel my legs benefitted from the rest, enough was enough. When you get to the point that you don’t want to run anymore, it’s time to kick yourself in the ass and get out the door. I’ve done it hundreds of times, and almost always feel better for it afterwards (though not necessarily during).

Today was a nice day – with a bit of wind to clear the air after the searing heat we’ve had here in Paris recently. My work is slowing down a bit for the summer, so no more excuses! With all this considered, I wanted to run. Sometimes running feels like a chore, sometimes a treat, and today I felt I’d earned a good run.

I wanted to let off steam, and there was plenty to let off. I’ve been finding coming back from injury frustrating. I used to be able to run for two hours or more, now I’m limited to 20 or 30 minute walk-runs. I wasn’t in the mood for that today I was going to go for a proper run. I missed the adrenaline high, and perhaps bizarrely the pain that comes with it. I craved the feeling of the wind in my face and the ground moving under my feet. I wanted my legs to carry me somewhere – no laps of the park for me today!

I grabbed an old pair of racing shoes, and set off. Contrary to the advice I gave for beginners, I went out at a strong pace. I was stiff from lack of exercise (and not warming up), but exhilarated to be moving. This feeling quickly gave way to heaviness in my legs and tightness in my chest as my lungs struggled to cope with the sudden need for more air. I knew this would pass once I got into my stride, so I pushed on.

I wasn’t wearing a watch (running on feel) but I had a visual marker in my mind, which I would try to reach before stopping. I didn’t think about it at the time, but it was around 2 miles away, further than I had run since my injury. The last half mile was pretty hellish, but I made it in one piece.

I caught my breath back, feeling like an out of shape (re)beginner, gulped some water, and did the dynamic warmup I should have done before starting. I then went for another effort of around two miles, feeling much better (to begin with, at least). I was running well, and caught glimpses, short though they were, of the runner I was six months ago, and the runner I want to become.

I then took another short walk break, gulped a little more water, then went off on a final mile stretch. After a cool down routine I walked home – red in the face, tight in the calves, blistered on the feet, but relaxed and happy.

I covered a total of 6.5 miles, with about 5 at a run, the rest walked, the session was over an hour. At times I felt I was flying, like Sammy Wanjiru with powerful long strides, at others I felt ridiculous – jogging slowly in flashy racing shoes. The reality is probably somewhere in between. And it doesn’t really matter either way – I went for a good run, got my cardio system working properly and my shins seemed to hold up. If I can build on what I did today, I’ll be back on track in a few months.

Having showered, stretched and eaten, I’m now enjoying that post run buzz, the runner’s high. I’m cleansed, energized and relaxed. Problems that seemed complex and insurmountable a couple of hours ago are straightforward in my eyes now. I feel confident and optimistic, something that has been lacking a little since my injury. It may just be endorphins acting on my brain, or relief that the trauma is over, but I’ll take it either way – I’m just happy to be running again.

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Starting from scratch – tips for beginners


Me at my first race back in 2007 - maybe I wasn't a beginner then, but it's the earliest running photo I have!

May Mileage: 2 (it’s not much, but it’s a start!)

Injury Update

I went for my first run in two months last Saturday. Earlier that week I’d been out and done a few strides to see how my shins would feel the next day. As it turned out, they were fine, so I gave them a couple more days and then went for it.

I feel like two months should be long enough to heal the shin splints I’ve been suffering from. I still get the occasional twinge, but the weather has been just too good to stay inside. Even so, this is a very tricky injury. You might not feel pain while you are running, only after. Also, as with any injury, after you’ve done it once the chances of it occurring are much higher, especially if you were in good shape before injury- as you’ll be used to doing more and faster.

So, I need to take it easy, to act like a beginner. This is difficult, as I’m excited about the prospects of hitting the roads again. Coming home from work each day, I’ve wanted nothing more than to pull on my shoes and go. But I have to be patient, trying to come back from injury too quickly leaves many runners (even professionals) stuck on the sick-list.

As I’ve not run for so long, my muscles are not as used to the strain. After my first run, my calves were really aching (although my shins were fine). I took the first session as a walk-run, with three efforts of about 5 minutes, with 2 minutes or so in between. Then I’ve given myself a week before trying again. My only objective is to get fit again, I think it will take a year to get back where I want to be. If I come back right, I will be stronger when I get there.

Although I’m starting again from scratch, I do have several years of experience to build on, and so here is a rundown of what I’ve been doing to get back on track.

Beginners: getting started

The two key principles are constancy and patience: it will take time for your body to adapt to training, but stick with it!

Here is an outline of the kind of session I’ve been doing to come back from injury, which would also work for a complete beginner. It takes about 1 hr in total (don’t worry, you’ll only run for part of that!)

Before you start

  • Don’t try to run if you are injured, sick or worried about your health. If you are over the age of 40 or have any medical issues, check with a doctor before starting.
  • The first piece of advice people normally give is to get the right shoes. Whilst I agree that it’s important to do this, I also understand that you might not want to lay down 100 bucks for something you might give up in two weeks. Also, despite a common misconception, ‘the right running shoes’ doesn’t just mean that they say Nike or Adidas on them. As long as they are shoes designed for running (not tennis, soccer or casual sneakers) and they fit well (with plenty of toe-room) then they will do to begin with – especially if you run on soft surfaces. You can go to a specialist running store and get your gait analysed for some fancy shoes once you’re hooked!
  • Clothing should be comfortable, allow freedom of movement and be appropriate for the weather (an old t-shirt is fine in summer). The only special of clothing I would recommend at first is lycra/spandex shorts, to stop inner-thigh chaffing (you can always wear a baggy pair over the top!), and I guess a sports bra for the ladies, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.
  • Make sure you are well hydrated – sip water over time rather than chugging right before you go.
  • Food isn’t very important at this stage, but remember to leave it 2-3 hours from your last meal, and if you feel hungry within this time snack on something light.

Warming Up

  • Walk for 10-15 minutes. Find a place with soft ground to train, grass or sand are ideal.
  • Do some Dynamic stretches: butt kicks, high knee walk, walking lunge, side steps & straight leg walk (click here for a video) Do these very gently to begin with, walk the stretch for 4-5m then walk back normally.

Run-Walk-Run

  • Run for a hundred metres or so, or until it feels uncomfortable. Go as slow as you like. Stay relaxed, with your feet pointing to the front and your hips pushed forward.
  • Slow to a walk. When you’ve got your breath back, run another length.
  • Repeat this run-walk pattern for 20 minutes or until you feel tired or any pain.

Cooling Down

  • Catch your breath fully, then repeat the dynamic stretches.
  • Walk home.

After you Run

  • Do some static stretches for your calves, quads and hamstrings. (click here for a video)
  • Keep sipping water, especially if it’s hot outside.
  • To reduce muscle soreness (you might not feel it until tomorrow, or the day after), you can run some cold water over your legs.
  • Eat a balanced meal within an hour of getting home.

Keep it up

  • Wait a couple of days, or until your muscles stop aching (this will happen faster as you get fitter) Then you can repeat the session. Start with once a week, then build to 2 or 3 sessions (or mix in gym, swimming, cycling or other sports).
  • Each time you run, try and increase the time you spend running and decrease the walking. Don’t get hung up on speed or distance, in fact, I wouldn’t bother timing or measuring at this stage.
  • Once you can run 20 minutes straight, add 2 minutes extra each week.

Remember that patience and consistency are key. If you overdo it, you risk injury or burning out and losing motivation. So stick with it, and GOOD LUCK! 

Video

Still skeptical? Think you’re not built to be a runner? Bill Bowerman  (University of Oregon Track coaching legend, co-founder of Nike and inventor of the modern running shoe) said: “if you have a body, you’re an athlete.” I agree, and here’s the proof: runner Steve Way gives an interview on how he lost 5 stone (70 lbs/30 kg) and went from being a couch potato to an elite marathon runner. To find out more about Steve, visit his site.

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Sammy Wanjiru



Sammy's Olympic Victory - (IAAF, click for source)

Samuel Kamau Wanjiru

November 10, 1986 – May 16, 2011

The big news in the Athletics world this week was the sudden death of Olympic Marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru.

He fell 6m/18ft from a balcony at his house in Nyahururu, Kenya, hitting his head on concrete. I will not speculate on whether it was an accident, suicide or murder, that is for the Kenyan courts to decide. It is without doubt a great loss to the sport; he was perhaps marathon running’s biggest star.

There are so many tributes, obituaries, blogs and articles; I can’t really add anything significant to the media outpouring. Instead I will talk a little about what Sammy meant to me, an ordinary runner.

Career Highlights

Sammy in Japan (JRN - click for source)

  • May 2002: Moves to Japan to train at Sendai High School, where he was succesful at cross country and Ekiden (long distance relays)
  • April 2005: Joined the Tokyo Kyushu racing team under coach Koichi Morishita, the 1992 Olmpyic Marathon Silver medallist
  • 10 July 2005: wins debut half marathon in Sendai, in an Asian all-comer’s record time of 59:43
  • 26 August 2005: sets world junior record at 10 000m (26:41) in Brussels, Belgium
  • 11 September 2005: Sets first half-marathon record, 59:16, in Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • 9 February 2007: Second half-marathon record, 58:53, Ras-al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
  • 17 March 2007: Third half-marathon record, den Haag, Netherlands – 58:33
  • 2 December 2007: Wins debut marathon in Fukuoka, Japan in 2:06:39
  • April 2008: Second to Martin Lel in London Marathon – 2:05:25
  • August 2008: Olympic Marathon Victory, Olympic record 2:06:32, Beijing
  • April 2009: London Marathon winner. Personal best time 2:05:10
  • October 2009: Chicago Marathon Winner, course record & American all-comer’s record- 2:05:41
  • 10 October 2010: Second Chicago victory – 2:06:24, in a breathtaking duel with Tsegay Kebede
What Sammy meant to me

Of all his races, his Olympic victory and Chicago 2010 win stand out to me. Both have been referred to as among the greatest marathon performances of all time. In Beijing, he ran hard from the gun, many thinking he would crash out in the heat and humidity. He held the pace, winning by nearly a minute, and breaking the Olympic record by 3 minutes.

In Chicago last year, he went into the race having suffered illness and injury. Under any other circumstances he would have been favourite, but the field was strong, he didn’t seem his usual confident self. In the end, he ran another stellar race, going head to head with Tsegay Kebede. They dueled over the last 7km, three times Kebede made a move, opened up a gap, and Sammy crawled back. It seemed that sooner or later Wanjiru would be dropped. But with around 800m to go, the finish line in sight, Sammy made his move. He kicked hard, leaving Kebede for dead, not looking back until he was well clear. This race perfectly demonstrated Wanjiru’s guts as a racer.

Chicago '10 (JRN - click for source)

For me, Wanjiru was a massive inspiration, he came to prominence around the time that I started paying attention elite racing. It’s a sad truth that due to the depth of talent in Kenyan running, a guy has to do an awful lot to get noticed. Sammy did that. I first heard of him when I watched the 2008 London Marathon, whilst I was training for my first 26.2 miler. He ran so well for someone so young (21), in a discipline traditionally dominated by guys in their late 20’s and early 30’s.

It’s was joy to watch him run. He always looked so relaxed, with excellent form. He had a distinctive running style; striding long from the hips and keeping his body level as if he were rolling on wheels. When you look at a still of him running, it looks barely possible. He always looked so efficient and fast, only in the final sprint did he appear the slightest bit tired or tense.

Sammy’s form may have been natural, but his racing tactics were learned in Japan. He learned to be patient, to test the opposition with surges of speed, and not to make a move too early. This is something coach Morishita emphasized; he knew Sammy’s potential as a racer.

I ran  the London Marathon in 2009, and I knew Sammy had won without even having to ask at the finish. It spurs you on to know you’re following a trail blazed by such a great runner. I knew he would be pushing hard all the way, so if I felt weak, I just had to ask myself the question “would Sammy slow down?”. As my personal tribute I will continue to think of Sammy whenever I race.

Here’s a video of his London victory:

Some runners push a hard steady pace from the gun, some put in fast surges to leave rivals behind, and some save everything for the last few hundred metres  to outkick the opposition. Sammy proved himself to be a true racer, able to do all three in one race. He showed great instinct and guts in all his races, waiting for the perfect moment to drop his opponents.

Sammy was quick, but never had the chance to set the marathon world record that so many thought him capable of. He ran his six marathons all in the 2:05-06 range, but he talked of possible 2:02 or even sub-2 times. A showdown with record holder Gebreselassie, one of the most eagerly awaited of all time, never materialized.

Sammy’s death was a big shock to me. I was looking forward to watching him race for perhaps the next decade, expecting to see great things. He was an obvious favourite for the 2012 Olympic title. Few could doubt that if he made it to the start line fit, he would win. His death is a great loss to not only his friends and family, but also the Kenyan people and the running community.

RIP Sammy.

Links to my pick of the thousands of tributes and articles about Sammy:

Wanjiru in the Words of Those Who Knew Him Japan Running News on Sammy’s time in Japan

I am Sammy Wanjiru! Commentator Toni Reavis on Sammy’s victory in Chicago ’10 – he was in the lead motorcycle sidecar

The day the marathon changed Midpack Slacker blog on the influence of Sammy’s gutsy Beijing race

IAAF Obituary

Video links:

Sammy’s epic duel with Tsegay Kebede in Chicago, on Flotrack.org

Sammy’s Olympic victory on the Official Olympic site

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Paris Marathon Report and Photos


Arc de Triomphe. As in Rome, the Marathon gave a great opportunity to get shots of landmarks without crowds or cars.

I’m planning on making my return to running some time next week after 6 weeks off with shin splints. I feel ready now, but it won’t hurt to give my shins an extra week. I still occasionally get pain, especially after a long day on my feet, but I think I’m ready to start easing back in. I’ve maintained a little fitness with swimming and aqua jogging (it’s much harder than you’d think!) but I’m starting to get a little squishy around the middle and I’m itching to hit the road again.

The Paris Marathon was back in April, I wasn’t going to miss the cities’ biggest running event. I ran it last year and watched in 2009 whilst preparing for the London Marathon. After my experience of the crowd support in Rome, I wanted to do the same for the runners here, not least because support in the French capital is notoriously, let’s say, thin.

The Paris Marathon is perhaps the third or fourth largest/most prestigious in Europe. Running it in 2010 I found the organisation to be good, but not quite on par with London or Berlin. The main problem being that the starting area is very small, considering it the race attracts a field of 30 000 runners.

It was run on a hot-ish day this year, reaching the mid 20’s Celsius/high 70’s Fahrenheit. That’s perfect weather for spectators, but I was glad I wasn’t running. I’d gone through warm sunny patches in Rome which were pretty uncomfortable.

The course is fantastic, one of the main draws for this race which attracts a significant proportion of tourist runners. As a resident of Paris, it’s hard for me to judge how it compares to my other races. (And if you’re running close to all out at 7 minute mile pace, it’s pretty tricky to take in the scenery!)

It starts on the Champs Elysees near the Arc de Triomphe, then crosses the Place de la Concorde, and runs past the Louvre to the Place de la Bastille. It then does a loop in the Bois de Vincennes park, taking in it’s mediaeval Chateau. Returning into the city and passing Bastille again, runners follow the banks of the Seine past the Notre Dame cathedral, the Orsay Museum and of course the Eiffel Tower. You see the best of Paris’ architecture in a matter of hours. If you’re having a good run in decent weather I can understand why many runners name it their favourite marathon.

Along with my good friend Dave (who was visiting by chance that week) I went to the Jardin de Tuilleries, overlooking the Place de la Concorde to watch the start. We eventually climbed on top of a lion statue, putting us a good 30 feet above road level, with an excellent viewpoint as the runners entered the rue de Rivoli . We watched from there, before hopping on Metro Line 1 to Bastille, where the runners pass through twice. The head of the race beat us to it by a long way, so we watched the masses going out and then the elites coming back. After the Elite women had passed, we hopped back onto the Metro to catch the men’s finish (Dave had a train to catch so we missed the Women).

The Eiffel Tower is passed around 30km, the race then passes into the Bois de Boulogne park. The problem with this is that for the final 10 kilometers the course is at it’s most winding and undulating. On top of this, the course is sparsely supported, due to a lack of public transport access. I remember this being horrible when I ran it. Just when your legs are screaming at you to stop and walk there’s no one to spur you on. It couldn’t be more different then Birdcage Walk in London, which is lined with thousands of noisy spectators.

The Parisians are not great supporters. I watched France play Lithuania in Qualifying for the 2010 Football World Cup. No more than a few thousand fans in the full to capacity (80 000) Stade de France were Lithuanian, yet they made more noise than the French! The exact same thing is true for marathon spectators. People will just quietly watch, or maybe cheer their friend or family member running. I knew I had to go and give support in that crucial last 10k. After seeing Dave off, I headed to the 35km point where I stood offering support, candy and water to the runners. I was pretty much the only person along that stretch, and certainly the only one making any noise!

Here are my photos from the day:

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It never ceases to amaze me the speed at which Elite athletes run. 5 minute miles look fast enough on paper, but they look unbelievable in the flesh. The athletes’ bodies look like they’re sprinting (the speed is equivalent to my 400m best!), but their faces look so relaxed, sometimes smiling or even chatting. I saw eventual women’s winner Prisca Jeptoo of Kenya passing Bastille at mile 14, she looked like she was out for a Sunday jog, smiling and chatting with her pacemaker! The men’s race was won by her compatriot Benjamin Kiptoo. Click here for the IAAF race report.

Here’s the official video of the race:

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