t-25: Lots of questions and lots of answers

Lots of friends from Running the Distance Facebook group asked me a tonne of questions about the coastal challenge I am running, and about long distance running in general. Here are my answers. Hope it is quite useful 🙂



Lisa Sargent – how do you stay motivated when you dont want to run? Liam Gibson – who are your running inspirations and why? Michelle kimble – Do u run for charity? If so is there a particular one that is close to your heart? Liam Gibson – When not listening to music what goes through your mind and what do you use the time to think about 




Lisa Sargent – How do you fuel before, during and after on your long runs? Steph Gelder – How many pieces do you have in your KFC bucket? Or do you go down the lazy route and go for it in a bun.




Sue Wasnidge – how do you train for multiple days of back to bac running. What was your starting mileage? Sarah Wood – how do you carry on day after day on tired knackered legs?




Nikki Cowen – do you have planned toilet breaks?

Karen T Jones – how do you decide where to run? Ever considered running around the coast of an island?

Zoe norman – how the hell will I run Sdw50 within cut off times?

Gordon Hughes – How do you warm up before long runs? I never warm up specifically, though I will often take an easy jog to ease myself in. Long runs are all about distance and time on my feet rather than getting a fast time. The conditions are always different anyway, and a few minutes slower for the first mile isn’t going to have my crying in my weetabix.

Gordon Hughes – Do you carry spare socks with you if you’re running over 26 miles? I don’t carry spare socks. Not least because I can never be too bothered about faffing around, and would be scared that my feet would swell too much to get my shoes back on. I have sometimes left spare socks in a drop bag at the half way point on a 100 miler and a 50 miler but never actually opened those bags. At the time I felt it would be bad luck (I’m not superstitious but silly miles do strange things to the brain!)

Paul Russell – how many pairs of trainers do you get through? I use lots of shoes. I have shoes for all different occasions and conditions ranging from road commuting (minimal road shoes – Nike Flex, Kalenji shoes from decathlon), longer distance road/light trail – Skechers Go Run Ride 4, more aggressive trail (or where I need more protection) – Kalenji Kapteren Discover, or when it is really muddy – my More Mile Cheviot 2, or Asics Fuji-Runnegade. I can wear anything, it is just the conditions that alter for me, and I tend to buy whatever is cheapest and is comfortable. I guess I am quite lucky like that! When I runcommute, and I have races I will regularly go through 200+ miles a month, but I tend to mix my shoes around so I don’t get overly used to running in a particular shoe. You never know when they will be discontinued and it means of course you will be up the creek!

Vanessa Jane Armond – Trail trainers if you’ve had gait analysis for roads – tips on choosing them. When I first started running, I had a gait analysis. My shoes didn’t work and my knees hurt like hell. I went back, did it again, got some new shoes, and then I was fine. But I suspect it is little more than coincidence. The more I have run, tried and experienced different shoes, the less I am convinced by gait analysis. I think it is a marketing tool, a gimmick. I tend to just pick whatever is comfortable, and whatever grip is good enough for the conditions that I will run in. On the trail, it is more natural and better to run forefoot, which tends to negative any impact of having shoes tailored to how you’re observed to land on your heal on a running machine. So, what works for me is any shoe I fancy, just go for comfort and the correct grip.


Vanessa Jane Armond – Avoiding shin splints for new runners, breathing and avoiding stitch? Stitches – I wish I knew how to avoid stitches. What I notice is that when you start running as a new runner, they are pretty frequent. I always suggest giving it a name – like….. Sidney or something. The more you run, the less frequent Sidney will plague you. Then, at some point you won’t experience it again… Sidney will have left the building. On breathing, see what works best for you, try and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, control your breathing, and don’t end up panting like an animal. Shin Splints – I am pretty squeamish, so what I understand is that it is the muscle pulling away from the bone. Yeeks!  I have experienced shin splints when I was starting out running and getting up to half marathon distance, when I started runcommuting (every day), and also on the last day of the 177 mile run around the Kent coast. So, they come and go, but when they are with me I think it is generally a sign of overuse and I stay away from running for 10 days. That cures it. Or has so far!


Vanessa Jane Armond What’s the best way to stay motivated if you need to take time off for injury? Well, when I was injured last year after I ran SDW100, I couldn’t walk for a couple of weeks, and then when I started to run again, I immediately pulled my calf muscle, and then after a few days I then seriously tugged by hamstring. I was pretty annoyed about that. I missed running and wanted to get back as soon as possible. Friends suggested swimming, cycling, yoga….. but I couldn’t really be bothered though I used my exercise bike a little, and did a yoga class for runners. One of the most brilliant guys – Sid Wills at my london club – Serpentine – took me aside and told me “Relax and chill out.. You’re only young….. you have decades of running ahead of you, so just take it easy and rest”. That’s stuck with me and I tell everyone the same now. Of course, there is another method of recovery, 1. Read about running (book, blog whatever), 2. Buy some more kit. 3. Enter another race.


Vanessa Jane Armond  Good kit to treat yourself to? Stephen Hone – What do you carry and how do you prepare for the weather from hell. Nikki Cowen – what kit do you carry with you?


My current list of kit is here – (though the watch that I now use is a Garmin Fenix 3)  https://untrainingultrarunner.com/2015/01/15/ultrarunning-kit-and-equipment-or-how-to-spend-alot-of-money-on-stuff-that-you-have-to-have/


I am a bit of a gadget geek and my favourite three bits of kit are:


  1. Garmin Fenix 3 GPS watch. It does everything, and the battery lasts long enough for me to run for 16 hours! 🙂
  2. Garmin Etrex 20 Handheld GPS – this has maps on and is great for navigating the great outdoors.
  3. A properly waterproof jacket – Montane Minimum jacket – this is superb and perfect for nightime running.
  4. Handheld torch (£1.32 from amazon) – A cree Q5 is a great torch and costs almost nothing. Can be used instead of a headtorch, and is handy for running around city streets or mountains!


Vanessa Jane Armond Best strength training if time is short? I’ve tried and failed to do any real strength training. I got myself some resistance bands (and used them once). I do from time to time do a bit of planking, sit ups or press-ups… but I always feel I would rather be running. But other people enjoy more success with variety than I do 🙂

Nikki Cowen – how do you tie your laces? I go with how they are laces from the Box. Which doesn’t really make much sense, because most shoes are laced by a robot and therefore the lacing method used is probably most easiest for a robot to do. What I often do however is use the second hole at the top of the shoe near the ankle to make a loop, and thread the other side through. That means that my shoes can be secure (important for mud) and also don’t have to overtighten.

Ben Ashmore Do you carb load and if so what foods are best for carb loading the night (s) before a big distance all I hear is pasta lol? When I started running 10km races I would stuff a load of chilli-con-carne the night before. Or Spaghetti Bolognese. My habit hasn’t changed. Except I will tend not to eat quite so much beforehand any more. As far as I know, the body can only store a certain amount of energy anyway. I do tend to eat a big breakfast in the morning though – full english, or maybe a macdonalds double sausage and egg mcmuffin meal. But, I don’t really have a particular ritual. I just eat food as normal. I have had good and bad experiences with curry (I won’t elaborate) and I once had food poisoning on an ultra (38 miles) along a canal when I had to sacrifice my gloves and race directions to a better cause! I will have a beer, or a glass of wine the night before. All pretty normal stuff.

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