Posts Tagged ‘Jogging’

REVIEW: Sony Walkman W Series

Sir Jog A Lot sells out…

James BarnardLast night I went for my first, post-marathon jog. In 4 weeks I’ll be re-running the first race event I competed in, the Bupa London 10K. I’ve set myself a target of getting round in sub-50 minutes. Last year I couldn’t quite break the 55-minute mark but after training for (and completing) a marathon I should be Señor Speedy Jogales.

First things first, I need to keep my level of fitness exactly as it is. I’d had 9 days to recover from the marathon (which I’d spent eating and drinking myself into a stupor) so I went out on a 3-mile jog around Blackheath. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s important to have another goal or milestone to focus on after the marathon to stop yourself getting the post-marathon blues (sometimes caused from the lack of endorphins produced during regular exercise). Plus, this time Sally is running with me, so I’ll have a bit of extra encouragement.

I also had a new toy to play with. Just before the marathon I was approached by a digital PR chap who had “an opportunity that I think might interest you” and two weeks later this bad boy arrived in the post; an mp3 player designed specifically for running folk.

Herein lies the dilemma. Do I keep my integrity, send the mp3 player back and continue to write the SJAL blog posts for free (or without perks), or do I sell out, review the thing and keep it? From the title of the post you can guess what I did! To be fair, I’ve already plugged a fair few websites and running products and if this PR agency thinks that my audience (you guys) would benefit from whatever they’re trying to get in the press then I’m more than happy to review it.

So here goes… my first review:

I ran the three miles with the Sony Walkman W Series and it was the fastest three miles I’ve ever run (something like 21 minutes). Unfortunately, the reason for my speed wasn’t due to the inspiring music that had been pre-loaded on to the device, but simply because I didn’t want anyone to see me with this thing attached to my head.

Sony_W_SeriesThe mp3 player is built directly into the headphones and the cable that connects the two, wraps round the back of your head. The theory behind it is brilliant. It gets rid of the annoying dangling cables (that you’d normally have to tuck underneath your shirt) and allows quick and easy access to the controls so you can play, pause, change track and adjust volume really easily. In practice, however, the device is clunky, uncomfortable and a little unsightly. I’m quite a self-conscious person (for the longest time I had issues running in a pair of shorts that show any leg above the knee) so I felt uncomfortable wearing a bright white device* that resembles two bluetooth headsets. You can’t even cover it with a hat because your hat won’t fit!

If this doesn’t bother you (and you have the right shaped head) then you’ll love this device and you’d have no reason not to. The sound quality is brilliant. The headphones resemble the MDR inner-ear series (I have a pair of these and the sound quality is unmatched for the price) and once the device is securely in place there’s no moving it. I’m no Paula Radcliffe head-bobber but the W Series stayed in place throughout my run. It charges in 3 minutes (using a slick little docking station that comes with it) and can hold 2GB worth of music (about 500 songs).


The player also features the new ‘Zappin’ function, which will play a snippet of the chorus of each of your songs (much like a TV advert for a Ministry of Sound CD) until you tap the button and ‘Zap In’ the song you want to listen to. Clever. It sounds cheesy but it’s a very cool way of choosing songs without having a screen in front of you to see what you’re listening to and it’s a lot of fun to play around with.

My advice, try before you buy. The cable that connects the two earpieces doesn’t have much give and if your head isn’t quite the right size then it’ll feel odd and you’ll be constantly trying to adjust it, rather than focusing on your run. I was so busy trying to adjust it that I nearly locked myself out of my flat.  It’s a shame because the concept and the functionality works so well.

Sir Jog A Lot rating: 3/5

* The W Series also comes in black, purple, pink and yellow

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Flora London Marathon 2009: Race Day – part 2

I knew the next section of the course very well, having run it many times before during my training runs. This, however, was not an advantage at all. The Highway, Westferry Road and Eastferry Road are long stretches of tarmac that just seem to keep going and have no poignant landmarks (aside from Canary Wharf in the distance). Although the crowds were brilliant, the numbers had started to drop off and it was down Westferry Road (the Isle of Dogs section) that I started to feel nauseous. At mile 16 the heat became too much for me.

MS Society cheering point: Canary WharfAs I turned the corner to travel back up towards Canary Wharf I began to feel faint and my vision started to blackout. It came over me very quickly and I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I didn’t want to start walking as I knew how hard it would be to start a jog back up again but something needed to change. For the next two minutes I ploughed my way along at barely a jog until I was seriously concerned that I was going to pass out.

I’m still really not sure what the problem was. There was a possibility that I was having a hypoglycemic attack. The symptoms were similar (I’d recognise them easily as I have type-1 diabetes) but the shakes weren’t as prominent as when hypoglycemia sets in. Still feeling very unsettled and sick, I began to walk. I became very upset and disappointed in myself. The hardest part to handle was that I knew exactly how far I had left to go and could visualise the route clearly in front of me. I had 10 miles left to cover and just couldn’t picture myself finishing. I began to think about the speech that Monty Halls had given in the Justgiving meet-up and how, later that day, I would have all the time in the world to look back and reflect on my performance. I knew I’d be disappointed but said to myself, “You’ll also remember how shit you’re feeling right now!”

Right at that moment, another MS Society runner ran up from behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and said,

“Come on Sir Jog A Lot, you can do better than that! The best of luck to you.”

… and the second he went past I started to run again. I’d only walked for around 30 seconds but it had felt like a lifetime. I approached the next drink station, grabbed a cool bottle of water, took one gulp and poured the rest over my head. This was the first ever time I’d done that and the feeling was invigorating. I immediately felt much better and picked up the pace again. I wasn’t quite at 10-minute miles but I was running and that’s all that mattered. From then on it was the support from the crowd that kept me running right until the finish. It sounds cliched but I don’t think I’d have achieved anywhere near 26 miles if it weren’t for the support from the crowd, my friends and my family along the route. If you ever do the marathon then my one piece of advice is have someone there with you. When you hit that wall, which I well and truly had done, you’ll need their support more than ever.

Over the next 2 miles I was cheered on by an old school friend who I haven’t seen for yonks, my friends and family at the next MS Society cheering point and a fellow blogger who recognised the ‘Sir Jog A Lot’ on the back of my vest and wished me luck. She had an eventful race. This picture was taken at Canary Wharf.

Canary WharfYou can see the relief in my eyes at seeing some familiar faces. This picture also gives an idea of the casualties there were that day. I’m too delirious to notice the poor bugger to the left of me who was being so violently sick and was in so much pain that the paramedics could hardly touch him. According to the BBC, 6,038 runners needed medical attention that day. It was no 2007 heatwave but it was pretty toasty.

By now I’d started to feel a little cramp set in at my groin and I had the beginnings of sunburn (which would later turn in to full-blown strap marks across my shoulders) but I was really enjoying the experience. London sometimes has a reputation of being a grumpy and impersonal city. Not today. There was not one ounce of discontent or negativity and the whole of London had come together to cheer on a group of runners, who most had never met before or have any affiliation, with as much passion and vigour as a father watching his son score his first goal for his school football team. It was awe inspiring.

At mile 23 the noise was deafening. The walls of the city buildings echoed the screams and cheers from the spectators and it was one of the best moments of my life. I was told later on that one of my friends spotted me at this point and they were screaming my name but I couldn’t hear.

At mile 25 I was plum-tuckered. The last 1.2 miles went incredibly slowly. I must have run a 13 or 14-minute-mile and every inch of me wanted to walk. The MS Society post-race reception was along Birdcage Walk, two turns from the finish line, and I saw my supporters one final time (they did incredibly well to spot me three times during the race). I didn’t quite have enough for a sprint finish but I made it over the line to join an elite group of people who can say…

“I’ve run the London Marathon.”

Time: 4:45:51

MS Society post-race reception

Not the best time and certainly a very long way from my initial target of sub-4 hours (yeah right) but I was over the moon to have finished. The goodie bag was stacked full of post-race treats and it wasn’t exactly light (sports drink, milkshake, apple, Jelly Babies, creams, t-shirt, foil blanket and much more), which made the trip back round to the MS Society post-race reception all the more fun!

I was provided with a sports massage from two burly blokes, the only two men in a room full of female masseurs (I think Lady Jog A Lot had been in and had a word before I got there). They also interviewed me for a video that’ll be used to entice others to run the marathon for the MS Society (link to be posted as soon as it becomes available).

Would I do it again?

You bet your ass I would!

Very proud...

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Eager or Anxious?

Watch out for me on SundayI am now fully immersed in marathon excitement/frustration/anxiety. There are 4 more days to go until this is all over and every part of me is wishing Sunday would hurry up and get here. The lack of exercise is driving me slightly loopy. I’m constantly fidgeting, doodling and finding every excuse to move around. Today I ran up the stairs at work as fast as I could like a little school boy, taking three steps at a time. I even jumped ahead with my checklist and bought my 7 DVDs to watch on Saturday today. One of which was Run Fat Boy Run.

Although I’m ready and raring to go, a side of me is wishing I had longer. I have no idea what I’m going to do with myself after the marathon is over and done with and apparently I’m not alone with this feeling. There is actually a condition called post marathon depression, where a person, instead of feeling relief and a sense of achievement, feels empty and falls into a lull. I’m sure I’ll be feeling the former, plus I have a 10k race booked in after (in which I’m hoping to break the 50-minute mark).

Over the past few days all I’ve done is research the London Marathon in a bid to get a feel for what the experience is going to be like. I don’t want any surprises coming my way on Sunday. In doing so I stumbled across the London Marathon media pack, which contains a multitude of brilliant facts about the marathon – like the following:

  • The most money raised for charity by a single marathon runner was £1,841,138
  • This year over 150,000 people applied to run the marathon, around 50,000 normally get accepted and around 36,000 actually start
  • The most common profession amongst this year’s runners is teaching/education
  • 159 of the runners will be celebrating their birthday on race day
  • 300 litres of blue paint will be used to paint the line on the course that represents the shortest distance
  • 750,000 bottles of water will be distributed throughout the course
  • The fastest time run in a Santa outfit is 3:12:27!

However, this is the most worrying fact…

  • Number of urinal bays at the start = 400

Lets say that out of the 36,000 people that normally start, 20,000 odd are men (this year the number of men out-weigh the women at around 3-1). Lets also assume that every man will need the loo at least once during the build up to the start. That equates to 50 men per urinal! This is probably why the London Marathon magazine in the starters pack contains this picture…

My garden is near the start line!

I’ve always been one for toilet humour.

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Checklist:

Looking forward to it...I was a bit of a naughty boy this weekend. My Uncle (who normally lives in Canada) was in London and I couldn’t refuse an opportunity to go and have a few beers on Saturday night. As I didn’t have to run far the next day (50 minutes easy pace), I didn’t think it would do me any harm. On Sunday morning I went out and, on an empty stomach and a hangover, ran 10k in 54 minutes. I felt surprisingly sprightly!

Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t the best idea to push myself that hard the week before the race and I was feeling decidedly guilty today. I’d never have forgiven myself if I’d have injured myself with one week to go, but it’s an incredibly difficult situation to be in. I’ve spent 15 weeks in training to get to this point and have become used to five runs of a healthy distance a week. To go from that kind of regime to running 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there, leaves you feeling a bit useless and it’s very difficult to relax. I don’t know what I’m going to be like after the marathon, but at the moment I can’t sit still! I’m worried I’m going to take all of this energy, run like a 4-year-old at the start of the marathon and burn out after 5 miles.

To take my mind off exercise I’ve come up with a checklist for this week:

Tuesday – (10 minutes at race pace with a warm up/cool down)

  • Buy Compeed
  • Get home and run around the park at Blackheath

Wednesday – (30 mins very easy)

  • Collect remaining sponsorship from office co-workers who haven’t paid yet (Wednesday is pay day)
  • Go to gym and watch The Simpsons while running on treadmill
  • Write blog post

Thursday – (Rest or 25 mins easy)

  • Buy seven new DVDs
  • Go to gym, run and say goodbye to everyone until next year
  • Put running number registration form in my bag so I don’t forget it for Friday and make sure I have my driving license

Friday – (Rest)

  • Print off race course map for family and mark points to meet them (remembering to decide on which side of the road to be on)
  • Go to Marathon Expo to pick up running number and timing chip (using registration form and driving license)
  • Buy ‘Marathon Survival Kit’ from Expo using voucher on page 13 of Marathon News magazine
  • Visit Justgiving* stand, Running Free** stand and Bupa London 10,000*** stand
  • Eat big bowl of pasta
  • Write blog post

Saturday – (15 mins very, very easy jog)

  • Get up early and do run (to tire myself out and fall asleep faster in the evening)
  • Cut toenails
  • Fit timing chip to trainers
  • Fill out the back of my running number and pin it to my vest
  • Plan where to meet family at end of race
  • Watch all seven DVDs back-to-back
  • Eat the biggest bowl of pasta I’ve ever seen
  • Give family MS Society cheering pack (equipped with balloons, inflatable sticks and flags)
  • Sleep

Sunday – (Race day!)

  • Eat baked beans on brown toast and one banana
  • Have two Lucozade Sport pouches (one at 8am and one at 9am)
  • Do 20 push-ups to get the guns looking plumper before donning running vest
  • Walk to start line (sorry guys, I live 30 seconds from it)
  • Get interviewed for MS Society video
  • Say goodbye to friends and family
  • Take empty plastic bottle
  • Hide the fact that you are peeing into empty plastic bottle under orange rain mac
  • Throw bottle to side of road
  • GO!

* To thank them for all of their efforts over the past few months
** Running Free magazine have agreed to do a small piece on me for their post marathon edition
*** I’ll be running the Bupa London 10k a month after the marathon

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Running a Marathon With a Cold:

My girlfriend was ill with a nasty cold last week and my punishment, for not looking after her better, was to get the cold myself. Obviously, being a guy, mine was ten times worse and forced me to take 2 days off work. I also didn’t run for 4 days as a result.

Too run or not to run...

Just before I felt it coming on I did my biggest run so far (and ever). After this it would mean tapering down all the way to the marathon. The 20 miles took me 3 hours 20 minutes. Again, not a great time but at least I managed to squeeze an extra mile in to that time slot. I’d prepared well for the run. I’d had beans on brown toast for breakfast and this time I’d taken 3 carbo gels with me that I’d bought the day before from the London Marathon shopin Covent Garden.

To be honest, I didn’t really feel any effect after taking them. It was a pretty hot day during the run and I had to ration the water in the bottle I was carrying as it’s not very big. Apparently it’s important to get your water intake right while taking the gels so maybe this had something to do with it but I still felt knackered at the end and couldn’t keep a decent pace. In hindsight, this is probably because I was on the verge of the WORST COLD EVER, and I’ll finish the marathon (I’m sure of it) but I really don’t think I’m going to be able to complete it in under 4 hours.

This, coupled with the fact that being ill has stopped my training, has meant that this has been a tough week. I’d wanted to keep training so badly during these past couple of days (especially as the marathon is now less than 3 weeks away). I nearly followed the ‘neck rule‘; if your ailment is above the neck (sniffles, head colds, ear infections) then running will most likely not do you any harm and if your ailment is below the neck (injury, coughs, stomach aches) then running won’t do you any good. I’m not sure if there is any scientific theory behind this rule but I rested up nonetheless.

Apparently, the volume of runners that pull out of the marathon due to illness is quite high. Here’s a fact that’ll put a smile on couch potatoes across the land. Endurance training causes a rise in the hormone cortisol which causes stress. This stress can affect the immune system, which can make you more susceptible to infection! So basically, because I’m eating better and exercising more, I’m more likely to get a cold than Fatty McFatterson of Cheeseburger Land!

Of course, I’m exaggerating (I’m not well). The key difference is the volume of exercise. Running for anything longer than 90 minutes causes blood sugar levels to drop to a level where this hormone is more prevalent. Marathon runners exceed this regularly in training and as a result, towards the end of their training, many marathoners pick up a cold.

This wouldn’t have mattered to me if I’d picked up this cold the day before the London Marathon, I’d still have blamed my girlfriend. I’m terrified that something bad is going to happen between now and the big day and I won’t be able to run. I’ve stopped playing football in case I pick up an injury, I’ve stopped drinking so I’m never running on a hangover and I’m taking a Berocca every day to keep the vitamin-C up. 17 days left to avoid twisting my ankle walking off a pavement…

Next week I’ll be attending the Justgiving pre-London Marathon Meet-up at the RIBA, London. Hopefully I’ll see a few fellow bloggers there to watch the 4 speakers, Monty Halls, Simon FosterSally Kettle and Vanessa Galeshare their tips on fundraising. I’ve got £200 to go…

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Dabbling in PR:

After winning the Justgiving video competition, I thought that the story behind it would be of suitable interest to my local media. I’ve been trying to come with an angle other than you might know this guy, he’s running the marathon and this was it.

The first thing I did was to get the news desk email addresses of my local press, the Horncastle News and the Lincolnshire Echo. Easy, I work for a media contacts database for the PR industry, but finding them out really isn’t hard.

The second thing I did was to draft a press release (Justgiving have a sample press release on their hints and tips page). Personally, I’ve never written a press release before but I’ve seen a fair few examples. They MUST start with a catchy subject line so the busy journalist won’t just think SPAM and delete it without even reading it. Ergo…

“Local lad wins London Marathon video competition:”

Key points to include:

  • Who are you?
    James Barnard, an ex Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School pupil, now working in London…
  • Why are you running?
    James (24) is running the Flora London Marathon 2009 in April for his girlfriend’s sister, Katie, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.
  • Your story.
    …has won the Justgiving video competition. His entry, which hosts a round-up of blog posts so far at his London Marathon training blog, sirjogalot.com, wins a £100 donation to the MS Society…
  • Your quotes.
    “I’m very happy to have won the competition and the extra money towards my sponsorship target has really made a difference. I’m just glad that I didn’t make a fool of myself for nothing!”
  • A photo.
    This is a little trickier as journalists get thousands of emails every day, which clog up their inboxes. In my case I gave my contact details if they wanted one but you can just as easily host one on the internet using Flickr or Photobox and provide a link to it. This way they won’t have to download your high-res image in their email.
  • Include your charity URL.
    It’s easy to forget but make sure you enter your sponsorship page in as the readers will have no idea how to sponsor you

I might follow up with another email in a couple of days time if you haven’t heard anything back, chances are that they are too busy to respond. However, usually this means that they’ve seen your press release and deleted it. Don’t feel too disheartened. Journalists are always short of time, always on deadline and will discard most things that aren’t breaking news.

It can’t hurt to try. You might get lucky…

The Horncastle News

The circulation of the Horncastle News is 5,190. Not bad. You could try and get a celebrity tweeter to mention your page and get it in front of half-a-million viewers, but who’s counting?

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Other Forms of Exercise:

Let’s face it, after 12 weeks of running 4-5 times a week, you start to get a little bored. I’ve changed my running routes that many times that I could probably pass ‘The Knowledge’ exam section for the South East of London. I could tell you, without hesitation, all 6 TV stations that are on in my local gym between 6pm and 7pm weeknights and (because I’ve read the text on my treadmill so many times) what the average heartbeat of an 80-year-old man running at 65% would be. Let’s just say, maybe it’s time to change things up a little.

Wednesday night, 45-minutes hard-effort. I plonked myself on a treadmill, ready to set off, only to turn around to see a work-colleague warming up for her spinning class. I went over.

“How long is this class?”, I asked.
“45 minutes”, she said. “You should join me!”.

It was a sign. My blisters needed a bit of a break and after my 19-miler things were a little chafe-tastic. My buddy showed me how to adjust the seat and the instructor came around to show me the ins and outs. I knew that the seat had to be low enough so that at the moment your pedal is at the bottom of its revolution, your knee joint doesn’t lock out. But that was about it. Turns out it’s a dangerous game this spinning. The pedals are connected directly to the flywheel at the front, which means that if your feet come out then the pedals will continue spinning, entangling your legs!

We set off, my colleague on the bike immediately to my left, and I was determined not to be shown up. I’ve been running well for 12 weeks now so I should be fairly competent at this! I thought it was just going to be a case of pedalling at different tempos. ‘Pedal fast, now pedal slow.’ But after a series of different positions (standing, sitting and squatting), tempos (sprint, three quarters and in-time with the music) and resistance (the dial at the front making it feel like you’re riding through treacle) I was absolutely spent.

No good...

I’d managed to finish well but I’d stupidly not brought a towel with me and I was sweating so much I couldn’t see. I have a new-found respect for those that do that twice a week as it can be killer on the knees. I was obviously a beginner. My seat adjustment was slightly too high and at the sprint sections it meant that I was bobbing up and down on the seat like a jackhammer. I bruised my tail bone as a result (back to running for me).

On Thursday nights I’ve changed my running for a weekly game of 5-a-side football. Our company sponsors a league, playing our clients. Our boss keeps telling us to let them win but at the moment there’s been no ‘let’ about it. 6 games and no victory so far. Again, when we started (6 weeks ago), I was adamant that my marathon training would give me an advantage over my colleagues as half of them haven’t done any exercise in a year! Again, I was wrong.

Football is a completely different type of exercise to long-distance running. The constant stopping, starting, sprinting, walking, twisting and turning is killer on the joints and I initially grew tired quite quickly. Changing up the routine to include football once a week has really developed my quads and, 6 weeks after starting, I can now last the 30 minutes at a pretty quick pace. Unfortunately, being able to run fast doesn’t make you a good footballer (and I’m probably the reason why our team isn’t winning). With football, however, there is a very high risk of injury so I think during the last three weeks of training I’ll have to stop and let the ‘new blood’ come through.

4 weeks to go and I managed a new PB with a 10k run yesteday. 51 minutes. Bring it on…

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