running blog

Clive Whaley

Feb 2017

Unfinished Business Part 1

Day 57 - Marathon Training - 40 mins 'easy'

I have described my entry into this year's London Marathon as 'unfinished business'. This photograph explains why.
For the avoidance of doubt - this is me in the 1986 London Marathon. I didn't expect to get a finisher's photo. In fact I didn't expect to get any photo and yet, a few weeks after it was all over, I got a promo leaflet from Road Runner Photographic Services with a tiny thumbnail proof of this image attached. I bought a printed copy and it has stayed hidden in a drawer ever since.

For the further avoidance of doubt - NO, I didn't finish the 1986 London Marathon. By the time this photo was taken, I don't even remembering entering the 1986 race, let alone starting it. I got to the finish via - a wheelchair, an ambulance and the London Underground - in that order.

I never went near the London Marathon again. That is … until now.

[Did my much needed 'recovery run' today - 40 minutes on soft surfaces. I'm a bit worried that my right knee is hurting quite a bit - a legacy from yesterday's 20 miles. In a day or two I will know whether it is anything serious or not.]

Half Way There

Day 56 - Marathon Training - 20 miles steady (last 4 at marathon pace)
End of Week 8

Quite a milestone today and the sheer exhaustion in the photo says it all. The completion of 8 weeks of training as part of a 16 week programme - so I'm half way there. It was also the longest and toughest run so far. 20 miles, with the aim of running the last 4 at 'marathon pace'.
It's debateable what 'marathon pace' is for me but I know I'm aiming for somewhere between 8 minute miles (the dream) and 8 and a half minute miles (the realistic target). So, when it got to the end of mile 16, I went for it and pushed my legs to do things they really didn't want to do.

I ran the next 3 miles (miles 17, 18 and 19) at a pace of 7 mins 50 seconds per mile and then part hobbled and part winced my way over the last mile back to the car. Most of the miles were run on the road in the good old Bride Valley, the same venue as last Monday's long run. It was much colder, wetter and windier than last Monday, so I had to contend with running long stretches into the wind, where even the flat sections felt like a tough climb. I was even more tired this week than last and after only about 6 miles it felt like really hard work. It was so much more about mind over matter but I guess I'm quite pleased that I was able to keep going, and as an exercise in mental toughness for the marathon, it was probably more useful than the physical effort involved.

In order to ration my time on the hard road surface, I did run the first 4 miles or so off road on the coast path and, although this is always much slower per mile, it's far more enjoyable and provides better views and photo opportunities. However, by the time I got to the end of the run, these scenes of soft ground, wind swept beaches and dramatic grey skies were completely forgotten.

I find it amazing that I can run constantly for 3 hours and then seconds after I have said 'stop, you've done the distance' - I am struggling even to walk. It's like a sudden injection of lead into the lower half of my body. It's heavy, unbending and painful. I sometimes laugh out loud with a sort of mixture of pain and hysterical laughter. Although I'm unbelievably stiff and sore, I'm sufficiently objective to see the comedy in the situation. While running, I am imitating someone 20 years younger and then I stop, and in the space of 20 seconds or so, I experience the feeling of someone 20 years older. It's the laughter of wisdom over foolish youth.

Still that's 8 weeks of hard training complete. I'm half way there. Half way to madness? Probably.


Day 50 - Marathon Training - 40 mins easy

I jogged for 40 minutes or so on some soft ground to try and recover from the 17 mile epic of yesterday. But that is not what I'm here to talk about.

I am going to explain how I produce the photos for this blog because I think it is pretty damn interesting even if no-one else does. Half of me wants to propagate the idea that I am so famous and interesting that I am followed on most of my training runs by a professional photographer or even a little group of paparazzi who snap my every move. I could try to do that … but on the other hand, it might be better in the long run (see what I did there?) to tell the truth.
The picture here gives it all away. From left to right - 1) an iPhone 6s, 2) a Manfrotto mini tripod with smartphone clamp, 3) an iPhone sports armband by Anker (no W in that).

Yes, all the lovely pictures you see in this blog are taken by an iPhone*. How do I carry this little lot? Well the phone goes into the armband - the armband gets velcro strapped onto my bicep (massive amount of velcro required) - and I carry the little tripod in my hand. Yes, I carry the tripod because it's less irritating than having it stuck down my running tights and avoids difficult to explain injuries at the GP surgery. I tend to regularly switch the carrying hand whilst running because we all know the importance of balance in running don't we? If I carried it in one hand all the time, I could end up with plantar tripoditis - a common condition amongst vain runners who insist on carrying photography equipment and keep bending down to look for good angles.

The mini tripod, with legs splayed, mounts the iPhone camera only about 18 cm or 7 inches off the ground - which explains why you see a lot of dramatic low angle photos in this blog. I do like low angle shots but they are mainly there because I've got no other choice! (Note to self: a bit more experimentation required on future runs … put it up on a wall or the back of a cow or something.)

By the way, I don't take this 3 part kit with me everytime I run, in fact most times I don't. It's annoying to run holding the tripod so I ration it to once or twice a week, maybe when the weather is good or I am going to be passing something particularly new or visually interesting. The other thing is, I know that if I have the ability to take pictures on the run, I will see photo opportunities every hundred metres or so and will spend more time stopping to take pictures than actually running. I suppose I have to 'lock away' the phone camera to avoid my addiction to using it.

I have explained the kit but how do I actually take the photos of myself running along in perfect natural pose? (Ha, ha!) Not always easy but here goes:
  1. Mount the iPhone in the tripod clamp - landscape format with the lens at the top and facing the potential subject
  2. Get down on the ground to look at the screen and compose the shot - creating a 'space in the frame' where I imagine myself running
  3. Set the self timer to 10 secs
  4. Set HDR to 'on' (if you don't you get a burst of 10 shots - you might want this, I don't)
  5. Lightly press the on screen shutter button
  6. Get off the ground and RUN into position!
  7. Come back and review the picture
  8. Repeat actions 5 to 7 until you get a decent shot with yourself in the frame in the right place!
I try to get the composition right in the first place and to be honest if a picture doesn't work after 3 or 4 attempts I don't bother. The one above is one of my favourites from the training programme so far and I will admit I had about six goes at this before I got one that I liked i.e. bang in the middle of the digger arm. What surprised me on the attempted shots before this, was that I kept running too far. It's amazing how far you can get in 10 seconds after pressing the shutter. In this case I had to scramble off and get behind the digger, jump onto a shingle bank and then run across the frame. I am honestly not that fast but the wide angle of the iPhone lens seems to expand the distances involved.

I guess the final point to make is about editing the photos. I use Adobe Lightroom and spend no more than a few minutes per picture doing some or all of the following in this order;
  • cropping the frame
  • adjusting exposure & contrast
  • adjusting highlights (usually reducing) & shadows (usually increasing)
  • adding a bit on the clarity and vibrance sliders
So there you have it. Sorry to disappoint anyone who thought I really did have another photographer following my every step. It really is just my own sham vanity exercise but I do enjoy trying to produce a good photo and everyone of these shots is really me, really running on the route I did that day. It's just that sometimes I had to do it all over again … as if the training wasn't hard enough, without also having to please the photographer.

* Truth alert … one exception so far to all the pictures having been taken on an iPhone - the pics taken on 27 January in the blog piece called "Mist Clearing" were taken by an Olympus Pen-F - a 'proper' camera.

Happy Valley

Day 49 - Marathon Training - 17 miles steady

It was a trip down memory lane today. I completed 17 miles running through the beautiful, and mostly deserted, Bride Valley. I used to live here and most of my runs, when I first moved to West Dorset, were completed along these relatively wide rural lanes.

The main reason for choosing this route was to get some miles in on the road, without having to jump out of the way of traffic and without having to climb ridiculously steep hills. There are hills in the Bride Valley but they are fairly modest and rolling and … well, you can forgive them and accept them when you are running in such glorious surroundings. Not only that, but it was unseasonably warm for late February (about 14C) and the sun shone for most of the time. I wore only a single layer on top and donned my shorts for the first time in 2017!

The whole day and the whole surroundings were doing a cheeky imitation of spring - from the sparkling, babbling streams by the village roadsides, to the snowdrops on the verge. I guess I was running so fast I was causing the space/time continuum to warp and the whole valley had leapt a month or more into the future. The little streams which tumble along the roadside in most of the villages in the valley are a real treat - you could call it a 'streamlined valley' and I tried to capture them on camera with my dynamic shape racing along. It's an interesting training concept - matching your running pace to a village stream.

Slap Slap Slap - Squish Squish Squish - Slap Squish, Slap Squish, - Slap Slap Slap. The sound of my new running shoes on the valley roads was accompanied by the sound of my backpack full of water. At times it provided a comforting rhythm, at others it was driving me mad but for the most part I forgot about it. Mind you, I did need the water today because it was pretty warm. I only wear the 'bladder' on my back on longer runs (more than 90 mins) and/or when it is fairly hot. It was sensible to take it today, despite the annoying sound effects - and my training plan specifically stated "practice your fuelling and hydration strategies". I hadn't thought about the little valley streams - maybe I could have just cupped my hands and gulped down water from the roadside?

Much like last Monday's 'long run' I felt really light and strong in the first half (or say up to about 10 miles) and then significantly weaker in the leg department towards the end. This time the hamstrings were complaining. The back of the legs were competing for attention with the tiredness in the front. If there was just ONE thing that would make me a better runner I am sure a 'hamstring transplant' would be it. And if I couldn't get them both done, I'd settle for having the one done at the back of my right leg. It's ALWAYS stiff and inflexible and noticeably more so than my left. Can anyone explain that? I do try stretching them out after most runs and I give more attention to the right than the left in a vain attempt to balance them out a bit. I think it is the curse of the runner, and especially middle aged male runners, to have tight hamstrings.

Maybe after the London Marathon I will take up 'extreme yoga' and develop the ability to leap out of bed in the morning and touch my toes with my nose, whilst keeping my legs straight. This also opens up possibilities of a new job in a travelling circus and freak show as 'the amazing rubber man'. One thing at a time. In the meantime I will settle for a training programme that allows me to have a beautiful Dorset Valley to myself on a day when it starts to wake from winter.

My mantra: I take only photographs and leave behind just the faintest Slap and Squish.

Sunday Hills

Day 48 - Marathon Training - 10 x 45 seconds on hills (90 sec jog recovery)

I don't think I've ever done a hill session on a Sunday. It just doesn't feel like a Sunday thing. It's also a bit strange that this Marathon Plan, that I am religiously following, only has ONE hill session and that was today! It seems a bit random but I'm sure it has been thought through and this training slot does have a purpose.

I discovered it's purpose - it was to knacker me out and, by the 9th hill rep, I was staggering around, dizzy and with a bit of a headache. I don't think those are very good signs! I'm not exaggerating about my reaction - I was gasping and stumbling in the pretty warm February weather, but I do think it was within my limits - I just pushed myself a bit that's all.
10 hill reps_Feb19
This little picture is a copy of the run elevation profile from my GPS watch. The 10 neat little hill reps are shown like the teeth of a saw. Of course seeing it like this makes it look so small and pathetic. It certainly didn't feel like that. The location was one of the steepest streets in town - Elizabeth Avenue - and I had set my watch to bleep after 45 seconds of charging uphill and then it bleeped again after another 90 seconds recovery. When you do a session like this, time on the recovery periods speeds up - you think 'that can't possibly have been 90 seconds already!' - I'm not ready to go again.

One of the key things about hill repetitions is to build strength and I really did feel it working hard on my legs - it's the fact that you have to lift them higher and harder in a very intense way. It does a bit of controlled damage that makes you strong and able to fight another day. Well that's the theory and it better be right. Otherwise what was the point in me suffering like that? On the other hand, I am sure it caused great Sunday entertainment for the mainly elderly residents of this bungalow lined avenue. Turn off the TV and watch this guy repeatedly failing to get to the top of the street. He didn't even deliver any unwanted leaflets, so what the hell was he doing?

Run Steady

Day 46 - Marathon Training - 65 mins 'steady'

Today my training plan called for a 65 minute run at 'steady' pace. What does 'steady' mean? Well in the pacing jargon it falls between 'easy' and 'tempo' - or another way of putting it, in effort scores - Easy is classed as 5 out of 10, steady is 6 and tempo is 7. (It carries on upwards to 'threshold' being 8 out of 10 and 'hard' being a 9.)

If there is such a thing, I classify 'steady' as your 'normal' running pace, the one you can sustain for a long time and long distance, whilst genuinely putting in the effort to run. I'm not sure whether it also corresponds with what should be my 'target marathon pace' but I guess it has to be there or thereabouts. Well my target marathon pace is somewhere between 8 minute miles (probably optimistic) and 8:30 minute miles, which I'm pretty sure I'm capable of. That means finishing somewhere between 3 and a half hours and 3 hours 45 minutes. To be sensible I should probably be aiming for the latter or I risk going too hard and really suffering and slowing down in the second half … even dropping out altogether … now we don't want that again do we?

I did this ordinary training run today in almost exactly 8 minute mile pace and it felt fairly comfortable so that's encouraging. At about mile 3, I could see I was running quite a bit faster than this, so I actually consciously slowed down a bit so that I didn't overdo it. In the hour I covered almost exactly 7.5 miles (8 min/mile pace or 5 min/km pace) and then slowed down a little at the end. Of course there's a big difference in doing that for an hour or for about 8 miles, as opposed to doing it for 3 or 4 hours and covering 26 miles, but I'll take it as a good sign for now.

I'm not a very fast runner and I'm not technically brilliant but if there's one thing I'm quite good at, it's pace judgement. I can shift between say 7 minute mile pace and 9 minute mile pace, probably without the aid of a watch, and my actual speed would be within a few seconds of my perceived speed. I guess this is a skill that is important in marathon running. Although technology can now assist pacing to quite a sophisticated level (with GPS watches on most runner's wrists) the best way to do it is still by instinctive feel.

If you can run for miles and miles and miles at the same steady pace and feel comfortable and in control, that's a pretty good feeling. And it's a pretty good way of getting you to the marathon finish line with body and mind still intact.

The Effort

Day 42 - Marathon Training - 15 miles 'easy'

"Victory isn't defined by wins or losses. It is defined by effort. If you can say, 'I did the best I could, I gave everything I had,' you're a winner." (Wolfgang Schadler)*

To roll out a quote like that might seem a bit dramatic at this stage. I'm only 6 weeks into my programme and I ran 15 miles … so what! Well it felt like I had to put just about everything into it to finish. I could have made it shorter and I could have given up but I didn't.

I quite enjoyed the first half. Although I was running into quite a stiff easterly breeze, there was sunshine, there were deep blue skies and it was quite warm. I amused myself taking photos to try and convey just how huge and deserted the beach is between Burton and West Bexington. It is quite breathtaking, liberating, humbling, to have such an enormous stretch of nature to yourself. Maybe it was an especially low tide but I can't remember seeing such a wide vista of sand and shingle and I mildly chastised myself for not running along the actual beach more often. I don't come along this far east that often but when I do, I normally take the slightly more inland path which runs inside the reed beds.

That was another thing I noticed today, the reed beds - they just looked spectacular - randomly swishing and waving in the late afternoon sun.

So all was looking good until I turned and made my way home. It could have been even better, with the wind behind me now and the setting sun painting glorious patterns in the sky ahead of me. But within a mile or two of the return journey I started to feel tired - very tired. My back was stiff and I could feel worrying twinges in it down one side (nothing new there). I had started the day thinking I would not be able to run at all because of my bloody useless back but it freed up during the day and I had decided to risk it - the weather was just too good to ignore.

However, a general exhaustion took over me and it was my legs, rather than my back, that started to fail. When you are running, your legs are quite important (school of the bleeding obvious alert) so when they are protesting over every stride, it becomes difficult - mentally and physically. It was like they were saying "Don't lift me, don't lift me" on every step. It felt like any ounce of strength and flexility in them had gone. I think it was my hip flexors that were mainly to blame - the muscle area at the front of the leg between your hip and your thigh. They were saying "No" but my mind was forcing them to keep going.

It's a feeling that will be recognised by anyone who has taken part in any sort of endurance running event - where you have run past your 'normal' energy reserves. It is remarkable that many of us continue on, sometimes for many miles, past the point when the body has told us to stop. For me today, there was really only about 2 or 3 miles past the place called 'sensible'. But somewhere along the line, it is this experience and this mental ability that months later gets us to the finish line. Every bit of effort counts in the end.
And it was a beautiful winter's day. And the sky was leading me home.

* By the way, the quote comes from a fella who was an Olympic athlete who competed in Luge for Lichenstein. So similar to my own experience …

Real News

Marathon Training - Day 39 - (8 min 'tempo' runs/ 3 min jog x 3)

At the very last minute, before I set out the door, I decided to take my iPhone with me - that translates as 'take my camera' with me (one day I'll make a phone call with it). Glad I did because you never know what you are going to encounter and just wish that you had the opportunity to provide the visual evidence for the story you are about to tell.

In the mainstream media this last week or so there seems to have been a focus on the phenomenum of 'Fake News', which is somewhat ironic. Anyway I've got no time for it and what follows is TRUE, honestly mum.
Photo 1 - Nutrition for runners
Half way round my run today, I found this thoughtfully placed bowl of runners 'high energy soup'. In later weeks of my marathon plan it refers to 'practice your nutrition and hydration strategies today'. Well this has come a bit early but it was welcome nevertheless. It was clearly labeled EXTRA HIGH ENERGY. I had set off early without any breakfast, so I needed no extra prompting - I was in there - two generous 'scoops' with my hands cupped together - YUM YUM!

No problem that on the side of the bucket, some joker had added a sticker that said, "This is a complementary feed ideal for pregnant ewes, growing lambs and tups". This stuff really worked wonders. Later on in my run my speed and energy levels were on a scale I had not experienced before. The desperate need to crap my pants was largely responsible for the speed burst but I still think there was something special in that bucket.

Photo 2 - Runners Burning
The furthest point of my run was Thorncombe Beacon, always a great place to visit. At the top of this prominent cliff on the Dorset Coast is a large metal basket mounted on a pole, some ten or twelve feet high. It's called a Beacon and it was installed several hundred years ago by an early group of runners in this area. Each month they would set a running challenge of anything from 10 to 20 miles and the losing runner was burned alive in the beacon, whilst the rest of the 'club' would dance around below shouting "Loser, loser, pants on fire". (The concept of rhyme had not yet been invented.) The prominent yellow arrow in the photo above is to show which way up to insert the runner.

I am proud to say that we continue the tradition to this day via the local running club - except we reserve burnings for runners who 'heel strike' or who wear pink lycra.

Photo 3 - On the level
All of my running is done on smooth, level surfaces. This is to avoid injury and keep me looking good. It also helps with my blistering speed. Or is it that it helps with the speed of my blistering? I can never remember which.

Photo 4 - Turning heads
The area is full of exotic wild animals. Most species enjoy watching runners go by, as shown by the shot of this "Dorset Shaggy Flump" which turned to admire my speed and technique as I passed. Flumps are becoming much more common since it was discovered they are the perfect pack animals for Ultra Runners and Triathletes who own more than £10,000 of sport and leisure kit. Not only can these beasts carry enormous amounts of gear, they are also able to navigate, without the aid of Google, towards food and drink stations at any Ultra Endurance event on the planet. However what really endears them to their owners is their ability to memorise and deliver motivational banter in clear English with just a hint of Dorset bleat. Favourite Shaggy Flump phrases include - "pain is only temporary but compression tights are for life" and "when the going gets tough, follow your heart but listen to your bowels" and "never, never, never give up unless you can negotiate a refund of the exorbitant entry fee". My favourite is the cryptic, "You might be able to run 20 miles continuously, but in the morning I'll still be a Flump."

So glad I had that phone camera with me today, otherwise you would not have believed me.

The 'To Do' List

Marathon Training - Day 35 (Completion of Week 5) - 12 miles easy
(Link to My Marathon Plan - weeks 11-16 not yet added.)Marathon_Plan_Clive_WK5

Even though it's the longest run I've done this year, it felt comfortable fitting in a 12 mile 'easy pace' run along the coast today. It was also good to do it without spending any time on my backside in the mud - something which was starting to become a regular feature of my training.

When I got back I did what I always do, usually before I even step into the shower. I 'ticked' the run as DONE on my Training Plan and filled in the other columns for Distance, Feeling and Comments. I have written out my 16 week plan on an Excel Spreadsheet with columns for:
  • Plan day
  • Date/day of the week
  • Content of run/session
  • Column for a TICK to show DONE
  • Distance covered in miles
  • How I felt: (Poor/OK/Good)
  • Comments
You know what, I like doing this. I look forward to getting back and giving myself a TICK for my efforts! It has only occurred to me since starting this training programme for the London Marathon, that one of the reasons this appeals to me, is that it is like following the ultimate 'To Do' list!

For as long as I can remember, and certainly for a huge chunk of my adult life, I have compiled daily 'to do' lists. I have a scrap of paper with a hand written list in bullet point format, either on my desk or somewhere about the house (I use them for both work tasks and domestic tasks). An additional 'nerd' factor comes from the fact that I roughly draw square boxes to the right of each item so that I can put a tick in the box when I have achieved them. But … wait for it, I nearly always use a red pen in the box to make the 'ticks'. I don't know what it is, but there is something about the contrasting colour that makes the tick stand out and maybe there is something deep seated about 'marks from the teacher' in an exercise book - only here the 'red tick' is always a good thing - because something has been completed.

I can remember one of the first ever 'self help' style books I bought was called "Getting Things Done" by Roger Black (not the runner!). I've just looked it up and you can buy old copies on Amazon for 1p!! Maybe I got the 'tick list' idea from him but whatever the case, I have spent a long time being driven by the idea (obsessed by the idea maybe?) of doing things on my daily list and rewarding myself with a DONE tick.

I have spent recent years being more philosophical and reflective about myself and trying to ditch the striving and achieving side of my character - knowing that this has led me to some good things but has also been the source of disappointment, depression and unhappiness. So why do I cling on to the daily 'to do' list? I don't really know but I think it is a very deeply ingrained habit. I also find it very useful and I think on balance the mild satisfaction I still get from ticking things off, balances out the dark, obsessional elements associated with it. Also as I get older, I suspect the daily list will be a godsend for when I get to those moments of mental paralysis - coming to a complete stop and shouting out, "What the hell was I going to do today?".

I think I have got things more in balance these days. I would much rather be out running 10 miles or more through the Dorset countryside, than sitting at home ticking boxes on a list. But how wonderful to be able to do both - Ha Ha! But there is no doubt that, for me, there is a deep mental and physical satisfaction at work here - working my way daily through a Mega 16 week To Do List which culminates in a final task of running 26 miles 385 yards on the streets of London. For that special day I think I need to create a giant box on my spreadsheet and massively increase the font size on my tick. (Innuendo alert!)

If and when I complete the London Marathon it is going to be like completing my life's biggest ever 'to do' list. Once I get back home, I will savour the moment as I put in that giant tick to say DONE. And I should probably leave it there … it will be really healthy for me to ditch the lists, trust my memory, become more spontaneous and live for the moment.

Sounds good but I just have this feeling that within a few days, I will start another list …

Perfect Fit

Marathon Training - Day 33 - 5K at tempo pace

Got my replacement running shoes some time ago but it has taken me a while to try them out. This is because:
  1. I've been injured
  2. I've been running 'off-road' a lot and these are road shoes
  3. I wanted my first test of the new shoes to be a relatively short run, on the road, in daylight
It took a while for all these conditions to be granted but today was the day.

Just to recap - I had ordered a new pair of road running shoes but they were too small. This was despite the fact that I had always worn UK size 7.5 in Saucony Shoes. The suppliers did not have any size 8s left in that model and I struggled to find them anywhere else at a reasonable price. I ended up going with a different supplier and a different shoe. For the shoe geeks, I went from a Saucony Kinvara 7 to a Saucony Zealot ISO 2 - the latter being a bit more expensive at £90.

My theory for why I needed bigger shoes was that my feet had got fatter (!), particularly at the front. And my preferred explanation for this, is that I now have such perfect running technique - always zipping along on the balls of my feet, that they have actually splayed out a bit at the front - hence the need for a bigger shoe. Anyway, enough of this rubbish. The new size eights were tried on. They immediately felt comfortable and a good fit - so far so good, but what about running in them?

Well they were great! First time out in a new pair of shoes and half way through I completely forgot I had them on, which I guess is the ultimate test. The weather was great (sunny and dry) and I chose a flat route on the pavement down to West Bay and back. Specifically my programme called for 12 minutes easy, followed by a 3 mile 'tempo run' (I made it 5K) and warming down with another 12 minutes at easy pace. I don't think I'm in great shape at the moment but I ran the 5K in 21:33 which is pretty good by my standards, especially for just a training run on my own.

One thing about the shoes was a subtle but noticeable sound as I pattered along the streets - a sort of Slap, Slap, Slap, Slap. They do have quite a wide forefoot (is that what you call it?) in a tasty shade of blue and my feet were enjoying this accompanying rhythm. I think this is a good thing. I only hope it doesn't drive me mad in the coming weeks. After all, these may well be the shoes I actually run the marathon in. Indeed I hope they are, because I don't want to have to shell out for another pair before London.

A really good first test - light and comfortable, assisting my 'zippy feet' to forget I even had them on. What adventures lie ahead for these brave blue laced warriors as they pound away the many miles between here and The Mall? Slap, Slap, Slap, Slap …