Archive for February, 2009

Running With Headphones:

I’m a bit of a music snob. When the mp3 player came out I never thought it would catch on. “Lossless audio compression my ass”, I used to say. But as headphones got worse and worse and standards became lower and lower (to the point where listening to music through a mobile phone speaker on a bus has become acceptable) I became more and more wrong. I have never bought an iPod. I refuse to pay money to a company that has made billions out of selling mp3 players but never put any of that money into improving the sound quality and upgrading the standard headphones that come with them. I told you I was a snob.

I own a Zune and listen to music regularly while on my training runs. Like many others, I have an armband (a stretchy one made by Nike) that carries my mp3 player. Now there are a couple of questions that I’ll try to answer in this post. Firstly, is listening to music good running decorum? Secondly, if you do listen to music while running, what type of music do you listen to?

This is actually a widely debated subject in the running world. There are hundreds of different pros and cons of listening to music on the go. I’ve listed just a few here and you can make up your own mind.

Pros: –

  • Motivation
    Runs can be long and, depending on where you run, a little boring.
  • Keeping rhythm
    Some people base their foot strokes on the tempo of the beat they’re listening to. This is a very good method of keeping to a strict pace.
  • 2 birds with 1 stone
    It doesn’t have to be music you’re listening to. You could be catching up with the week’s news, listening to a football match or learning another language while reaping the rewards of a running session.
  • More energy
    There’s nothing more uplifting than hearing your favourtie tune and that can reflect dramatically in your running.

Cons: –

  • It’s unsafe
    Being unable to hear traffic, other runners or strangers in the dark is a serious disadvantage.
  • Missing out on your running community
    If you live in London then this won’t apply to you (because nobody talks to anyone else down here) but keeping your headphones in alienates you from fellow runners.
  • Timing
    For those that have a good sense of rhythm listening to music can throw you off your stride or affect your breathing patterns.

Here’s where I stand. I completely agree with the timing disadvantage. One thing I’ve noticed when I’ve run without headphones is that I can regulate my breathing by counting how many steps I’m taking. At the beginning of a run I’ll breathe in for 3 steps and out for 3 steps. As the run progresses and the intensity increases I’ll shorten that to 2 steps. This has meant that I’ve not over-done it in the early stages and achieved a good overall time. If I’m listening to music that goes out the window. I can play the drums (like a god) and the music I’m listening to really affects my rhythm and ultimately my breathing. Working hard at uni

Running with headphones in can be unsafe but only if you have the spacial awareness of Stevie Wonder. Just turn the volume down a little bit and if there is someone lurking in the dark waiting to grab you then chances are you can run faster than them anyway! The most danger I’ve ever been in from running with headphones in was when I was on a treadmill and caught the headphone cable with my arm. It pulled my mp3 player from the little holder in front of me and I nearly broke my neck trying to jump over it as it shot out the back of the treadmill, smashing into it’s component parts. Thank god for shock testing.

I love getting away from it all and blasting out some tunes on my training runs but I completely disagree with listening to music during an actual race. This was actually banned in some races in the US, albeit for the wrong reasons. I will definitely not be sporting an mp3 player during the London Marathon. If half-a-million people can take the time to come out and give their support then I’ll damn well listen to them. Heck, there may even be a bit of music as you go round. During the BUPA London 10k there were some awesome Banghra drummers at 3k and 7k, at the Finsbury Cancer Research 10k there were 2 guys with a digery do and a djembe and at the Nike Human Race there was a band playing at 2k (they sucked but that’s not the point). But to not give the supporters the courtesy of your attention is bad form.

I won’t spend too long on this because I’ve rambled on for too long but which songs you choose while training is crucial. If you haven’t heard of Nike+ then it’s basically a chip that you place in your shoe that syncs with your mp3 player. You can set it to play your ‘power song’ when you reach a certain time/distance to give you that extra boost to complete your training (along with a load of other nifty features). Unfortunately it only works with iPods (damn me and my laurels!). The reason I’ve plugged Nike+ so hard is because of their current top-10 list of power songs (some inspiration for your playlists here) that consist of songs like ‘Eye of the Tiger’, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ (awesome) and ‘Firestarter’.

I’m not going to embarrass myself too much by revealing my playlist choices as my music taste is somewhat eclectic (stretching to anything from Simply Red to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony) but I do have one suggestion. James Bond theme tunes. When Tina Turner broke into the bridge in ‘Goldeneye‘ during my run back from Canary Wharf I’ve never run with more determination or vigour…

Enjoyed this? Check out the Headphones for Runners reviews.


A bit of news… 

It’s about time for a quick update on the marathon efforts so far:

  • 24
    The number of hours training I’ve clocked up since I began in early January.  To be exact, 24 hours and 57 minutes. Too many of those were on a treadmill.
  • 7
    The number of pounds I’ve gained in weight since I began training. See the Why am I gaining weight blog post.
  • 938
    The number of pounds (that’s ‘£’s) that I’ve managed to collate in sponsorship for the MS Society. Over 2 months to go until race day so that’s not bad going. I’d just like to take this moment to thank those who have sponsored me and apologise to those who I’ll be emailing personally at the end of this month (after pay day). The email will begin with,     “Long time no speak. The last time I saw you was *insert witty banter here*. Anyway…”
  • 900
    The number of visitors to this blog I’ve had so far. One of the benefits of is that it comes with all sorts of statistics you can keep your eye on. This includes the top google search queries that have resulted in hits to your blog. Here are my favourites:   1.  “is my ankle broken?
    2. “full size john wayne photos
    3. “nipple trainers
    4. “bulge in gray jogging bottoms
    5. (my personal favourite) “rik waller nude” 
  • 3
    The number of pieces of coverage this blog has had so far. These include…   1. The Justgiving London marathon page (Sir Jog A Lot is featured)
    2. The Justgiving London marathon page (Sir Jog A Lot is interviewed)
    3. The MS Society marathon e-newsletter and I quote,”James Barnard, aka “Sir Jog a Lot”, is one of the MS Society Gold Bonders this year and he has set up a blog so popular its even been featured in Justgiving’s London Marathon pages! It includes loads of great fundraising advice, as well as regular updates on his training progress.
  • 1
    The number of races I’ve signed up to between now and the Flora London Marathon 2009. I’ll be running in the Eastbourne half-marathon on Sunday 1st March so expect a blog post or two on my efforts there.

Here ends the narcissistic rant. Thanks to all who have found this blog interesting/useful and I hope my big head hasn’t put you off. Confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings…


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London Marathon Training: Week 6

The wall.

Last Saturday was my longest run so far; about 12 miles. Not even a half marathon and I was knackered, although I was pushing quite hard. The snow made it interesting and I came close to breaking my ankles about three times. At about mile 10 my body started to feel quite heavy and I could only really manage a slow jog, just above walking pace (about 8 kmph for those who use a treadmill often). Annoyingly, at mile 9 I was feeling fantastic and was bounding along like Neil Armstrong so why the sudden lull? 

The Berlin Wall - or what's left of it...

Stupidly, I was so keen to get the long run out of the way on Saturday morning that I didn’t eat or drink enough. I had 2 slices of toast, a glass of water and a dash of insulin. In retrospect this was hardly enough to last the best part of 2 hours but I guess there’s no substitute for experience so next time I’ll kick-off a little better prepared. But it did get me thinking about the body’s energy supply and the dreaded ‘wall’ I keep hearing about.

For those that are not aware, the wall is best described as a virtual barrier the body struggles to get through once it has depleted its energy supplies. During a marathon race, usually at around the 20-mile mark, the liver and muscles run out of the much-needed glycogen supplies that provide energy to the legs and arms. Once this happens the body will switch to another energy source, fat. Unfortunately, burning fat for energy is far less efficient and the body grinds to a halt. Symptoms? Exhaustion, weakness, dizziness and even hallucinations. Check out this poor bloke who hits the wall in the final 200m of the London Marathon. I don’t like the look of that at all; the body not even having enough energy to walk like a normal person. 

Annoyingly, most marathon training plans won’t actually set you off on a full 26-mile practice run before the big day. In fact, almost all of them cap off the maximum distance at around 20 miles before tapering off a couple of weeks before race day. So we’ll never actually experience the wall until we’re being watched by half-a-million people, at which point you’ll probably just want to curl up into a ball and die!

So how do you prepare for the wall? Think P.C.D. (no, not the Pussycat Dolls. But hey, whatever works for you).

  • Pace
    Keeping to a steady pace during a run can be very difficult. The top athletes have pacers who tag-team around the marathon course keeping the athletes bunched together so they don’t travel too fast and burn out at the end. There may even be pacers within the masses that you can run with (Runner’s World offer free pace groups). Alternatively, wear a bench-mark bracelet that you can pick up on the day that will give you your correct split-times that you’ll need to stick to.
  • Carbs
    Many marathoners (marathoni?) will over-load on carbs during the two days up until the race and decrease their training regime to allow the body to store the glycogen levels for the big day. Also, consuming carbohydrates during the race is a must. Most sports drinks will suffice but some also like to experiment with sports gels at around the 15-mile mark and pre-empt hitting the wall.
  • Determination 
    If you do ‘bonk’ (another cracking term for wall hitting) then you’re not going to get through it without a little will power. Having your friends and family there at mile 20, cheering you on will give you a huge boost so make sure you round up your friends and get them to shout inspiring abuse at you at strategic points around the course.

Two pints of Golden Syrup and a pack of sugar please.

Apparently, experiencing the wall is similar to the effects of hypoglycemia due to the low blood-sugar levels. I’m diabetic and have had my fair share of hypos. They’re not pretty and I’m understandably nervous but I’m sure with some experimentation I’ll be OK. If any of you have any suggestions, tips or previous experience then I’d love to hear from you. Although I have had a lot of practice at hitting real walls (I live with my girlfriend), I’m in new territory here.

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I understand that this is a subject that may not appeal to many and it’s a sensitive issue in more ways than one but it has to be talked about. Chafing doesn’t just happen to men and fat people so suck it up and listen good.

The first time I went for a run that was longer than half an hour I was wearing a pair of Calvin Klein boxer shorts and some cut-off cargos. Unfortunately for me it started to rain quite badly and the friction began. Now my thighs are not chubby in the slightest (in fact I look like a bread-roll with two chop sticks jammed in it) but I came back walking like John Wayne with a melon between his legs. It hurt so much. It must be to do with the way I run (see blog post 2) but right up the inside of my thighs ended up looking like two raw steaks.

It helps...

First lesson learned, don’t wear boxer shorts. If your problem is material rubbing on skin then they aren’t going to help. The trick is to keep yourself as dry as possible and thick undergarments will make you sweat worse than Tom Jones. Materials like Lycra or spandex will help wick away sweat and stop the abrasion between material and body parts. Also (one for the lads) running in boxer shorts can lead to testicular torsion

… Another bollock drop would be to wear clothes on race day that you’ve never tried before. Unfortunately, stopping the effects of chafing takes a lot of experimentation and it doesn’t just happen on the legs. Mp3 players strapped to your arm, vests, running belts and new trainers or socks can cause unexpected pain or discomfort during and after a race has finished. Take the time during your training to try out different outfits and decide a month or two in advance on what you are going to wear on the race day.

After ditching the boxer shorts I moved on to briefs which then resulted in a whole new skin-on-skin problem (I’m sorry, I’m embarrassed as I’m writing this). Vaseline is the obvious choice and has worked well for me. The problem, however, with Vaseline is that it doesn’t last very long and by the 15th mile I’d imagine that most of it will have worn away. I believe that volunteers hand the stuff out along the course but, if I have anything to do with it, I won’t be stopping for anything other than a quick Paula Radcliffe dash! For longer lasting products use Body Glide or if you really want to last the distance try industrial strength Bag Balm (which is actually supposed to be used on cow’s udders!).

If you’re still reading this and all of this talk of rubbing and lubrication has had you one sexual innuendo away from closing this page down, then thanks for putting up with this udder rubbish…

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