Never give up – Running and masochism

"I'm just having a quick nap... wake me when we get there..."

“I’m just having a quick nap… wake me when we get there…”

In last year’s boat race (2012) Oxford’s bow rower Alex Woods passed out from what was described by Oxford’s coach as “pushing himself beyond his limits”. Obviously this sparked a certain amount of debate about the expectation of endurance sport and is all the more interesting when compared to the case of Sally Robbins in the Women’s coxless fours in the 2004 Athens Olympics…  Sally took the other option available to the maxed-out athlete in rowing: she stopped rowing. This move by Sally was initially one of instinctual self-preservation but it resulted in isolation and a complete absence of sympathy from not only her teammates and coach, but from the entire nation of Australia.  Sally was described as a wimp, piker, bludger and then the biggest insult possible for an Australian in a sporting context…. She was described as:



So… If Sally Robbins is “Un-Australian”, then I guess Alex Woods, who was prepared to blackout before quitting is, to quote Dick Nasty, “more Australian than a book of bush poetry written by Russell Crowe”.

Eyeball Paul:”Imagine pushing so hard that you actually black out. And then you wake up knowing that you’ve definitely given 100%!”

One interesting aspect of this whole rowing story was the reaction of one of my mates (and hardcore marathon training partner): “Eyeball Paul”.  “Eyeball Paul” (whose name is in homage to Kevin and Perry and for his penchant for running at “eyeballs-out” pace) had a very straightforward take on the whole rowing incident:

“That was awesome!”

I looked at Paul in astonishment but he was smiling and staring into the distance, shaking his head in disbelief:

“Imagine pushing so hard that you actually black out. And then you wake up knowing that you’ve definitely given 100%!”

“Yeah, with a heart rate monitor on and an IV drip in your arm”

I couldn’t help but add.  Paul seemed unfazed:

“I’d rather that than knowing that I hadn’t given everything I had.”

And although I personally think Paul is missing a couple of neural pathways that join the pain receptors to the brain, his attitude is in no way strange in the world of endurance running. A runner who can withstand the most pain, for the longest duration with the minimum of fuss, is almost always the worshiped figurehead of any running group.  The sad reality of it is:

If you want to get somewhere with your running, you are going to need to become friends with pain.

"Not only will House of Pain not be your friends... it won't help your running..."

“Not only will House of Pain not be your friends… it won’t help your running…”

At my work running club we frequently do an 8 minute mile run on a Monday.  For the experienced runners it serves as a recovery run and for some of the newer runners it is a tempo run. The recovery runners chirp away without appearing to be out of breath, whilst the tempo runners gasp like asthmatic seals doing altitude training through hessian facemasks (do such scenes exist?). When we get to the end of the run, the tempo runners are doubled-over, gasping and sweating. At which point the more experienced runners roll out the standard lines…

Experienced runner:

“Hurts don’t it? I guess we could do this the easy way that doesn’t hurt and doesn’t burn your lungs?”

New runner:


Experienced runner:

“Yeah, sure… There’s just one problem with that…”

New runner:

 “What’s that?”

Experienced runner:

“It doesn’t exist!”

When you take a step back and think about it, intervals workouts down the running track with my local running club are a strange concept: runners actually appear to revel in the pain. An “awesome” workout is one where you pushed so hard that you almost (but didn’t) puke. Before the session, the interval workout is read out like a sumptuous menu of pain:

“Then we do 6x400m with 30 seconds of recovery…”


“Then a 30 minute tempo run…”


“Then 6x400m again…”



“This is going to hurt SO much.  It’s gonna be awesome!”

Eyeball Paul:

“I’m going to treat myself and do 8x400m!”

Can you imagine just how ridiculous an interval session would be if you removed the running and just left the pain:

“Then we’ll do 6×90 seconds with the electrodes on the toes…”


“Then 30 minutes of Chinese burns…”


“Then 6×90 seconds in the stinging nettle bath…”


“Then 6×90 seconds in the stinging nettle bath…”

Running pain is a little bit different to normal pain in that it is mixed up with some feelgood endorphins. In fact, even in a brutal interval session, you start to feel the endorphins about halfway through; giving you a taste of just how good you’ll feel if you close your eyes and totally bury yourself (not literally). In fact, all the best long distance runners that I know are masters of pain management. They are far more afraid of not giving their all and not wringing every last drop out of a workout than they are of the pain. The beginner runner, on the other hand, approaches the intervals workout with foolhardy, Brumbyeque machismo:

“I’ll just go out as fast as I can… And deal with the consequences…”

The consequences which will be that you’ll have a 1km interval split that looks like this:

1) 3:20
2) 3:28
3) 3:58
4) 4:34
5) 2 hours and 15 minutes

whereas the seasoned runner will reach the “maximum pain point” on the final straight of the final rep, thus maximizing the effect of the workout…  I guess the message is: embrace the pain… and never give up!

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The different types of runner – part 3

(follows on from part 1 and part 2)

1. Multi-eye disc-eye-plyne super athlete


“running is his 18th best discipline and he is distracted by the sound of female spectators fainting.”

This guy is running in a local 10km race because the wind  is too much for surfing, too little for windsurfing, the football and rugby teams that he captains are having byes, his mountain and road bikes are being serviced, there is no Zumba class to lead. And the local pool is closed. And he feels like a “rest day”. With a bodyfat of -20%, he is a rippled torso of bronzed manflesh ready to effortlessly coast past you in the only sport you are actually any good at. Not that he cares, running is his 18th best discipline and he is distracted by the sound of female spectators fainting. Bastard.

2. The hunchback of Notre Dame

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame only every competes in the Paris Marathon”

This guy makes Emil Zatopek look like a technique benchmark.  He is the only runner you have seen whose hip rotation is over 180 degrees but is limited by his knuckles dragging along the ground.  This guy’s technique is so bad that it is a miracle he moves forwards, as you really expect him to move sideways like a crab. If you need to overtake him it is important to give him at least 100m in each direction.  And best do overtake him, as he clears every drink table that he passes. What really rubs it in is that this guy never gets injured,  even if he is the main reason why there is a fence around the outside of your local running track.

3) The Underperformer

On the running track on a Tuesday night he smashes out the intervals like a man possessed. And he does twice the mileage of you and waits for you for at least six minutes at the end of the tempo run (muttering and looking at his watch). But come race day, it goes completely wrong. Every time. This guy is like a giant magnet for injury and disease the night before a race. He stress fractures on a parkrun, his appendix bursts in the half marathon and he is the only runner to get attacked by a “sexually aroused deer” in the Richmond Park 10km.  He evens ruins his marathon by contracting the norovirus.


“…he is the only runner to get attacked by a “sexually aroused deer” in the Richmond Park 10km.”

The Underperformer is the kind of guy where you drive over to his house to pick him up, only to find it has been cordoned off due to a sudden outbreak of the Ebloa virus, and you aren’t even surprised. He then becomes so paranoid about illness and injury that he starts wearing a “compression onesie” and partaking in pre-race animal sacrifices… Only to catch a rare virus from one of the animals; ruining his next race…

4) 80’s Man

“Awesome old skool soldier, and initiator of the London Marathon: Dave Bedford”

Every now and then you’ll be lucky enough to see a runner that to all accounts appears to have been in hibernation for the last 30 years. With his handlebar moustache, mullet, track spikes that have long since been banned, knee high socks and hessian running shorts, you’ll see him at the start of the race downing salt tablets, eating pork scratchings and doing stretches that we all now know cause substantially more harm than good.  He is the only one wearing a watch that isn’t digital and has attached the timing band to his wrist because he thinks it is for a free beer after or during the race.

5) Ex-special forces runner

“You notice the “256” tattooed on his back and ask him if that is his marathon personal best? It turns out to be the number of people he has killed.”

He has a tattoo of a spider strangling a pig on his left massive bicep and a tattoo that reads “if you are reading this then you are probably about to die” on his right massive bicep and he is the only one in full camouflage, carrying a radio pack and in thickset army boots. You notice the “256” tattooed on his back and ask him if that is his marathon personal best? It turns out to be the number of people he has killed. With is bare hands. And it needs to be updated.

When you finish your marathon and you’re not sure whether you should just head straight to the hospital, he is smoking a filterless cigarette and reminiscing about how easy this all is compared to his special forces days. As he remarks to you:

“I remember finishing an SAS training marathon with 2 other recruits… After we finished my superior made us fight each other.  The last one standing got the honour of running another marathon carrying the two losers…”

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How to look like a pro… without having to train

Training isn’t for everyone.  It is hard, it requires time sacrifices, and most of all: it hurts!  If you want to look good at your local 10km, training and being fast isn’t always the best way.  This article has some tips on how to look like a pro without having to do any proper work.


1. Have a team bus


“…and only exit the bus when the smoke machine has been on for at least an hour and “Eye of the Tiger” has started”

Yeah, sure it’s just you racing, but that is no reason not to have a bus. In fact, best make sure it is the biggest bus that money can buy.  The sort of bus that is often used by a rock band or an ice hockey team. It is important to make sure you park the bus as close to the start line as possible, and only exit the bus when the smoke machine has been on for at least an hour and “Eye of the Tiger” has started.


2. Bring a sprinter’s starting block

Sure, all the amateurs around you will be rolling their eyes as you assemble your sprinter’s starting block. But that is the exact attitude that makes them amateurs. You’re a professional and you know that every millisecond counts as you will no doubt have to point out to the amateur losers around you.


3. Wear Kenyan or Ethiopian team kits


“…make sure you wear the full tracksuit.”

Remember to make sure you don’t just wear the singlet and shorts and that you go to the effort to wear the full tracksuit. Then, as you start to perform your extended warm-up, you can begin to remove items of your team kit, making sure that you have “staff” around to return the tracksuit to the tour bus.


4. Bring a masseur

Monkey 1:”Seriously, that is the LAST marathon I’m doing…”
Monkey 2:”That’s what you said when you ran Boston last year… You’ll be back…”

As a professional, races are important to you and you need to be relaxed before the starting gun fires. Having a full time masseur (or two) with you at the start line helps immensely in “keeping you in the zone”. But lets face it, sometimes a massage before the race simply isn’t enough.  The best idea is to make sure that your “masseur team” is fast enough to run beside you and continue the massage for at  least the first 2km of the race.  After all, you’re  a pro…


5. Mark out your own VIP area in each drinks table

Get your staff to arrive at the race early and mark out an area of each drinks table (half to two thirds should do) to be used exclusively by you.  Any plastic cups that happen to be on “your side” should be immediately swept to the floor and replaced with Kenyan team branded drink bottles containing your secret drink solution (which is actually just water – but that’s not the point!).  Any runner who strays onto your “half” of the drinks table should be punished with immediate race disqualification, and should also have the drink that they just stole (yes, stole) dashed to the ground.


6. Refuse to have your photo taken

“A better 1st step is to have your staff dash the camera on the ground and kick it to pieces before the person has had a chance to take the photo, or in fact even turn the camera on. “

When you’re a professional athlete with a tour bus, massage team and marketing agent, you can’t let people photograph you willy nilly. You’ve painstakingly built up your global profile with brutal race wins, benevolent spirit and boyish good looks; you don’t want this ruined by some prole with a camera taking a photo of you running that makes you look like a pregnant porpoise with gout. But how do you stop random people taking photos at your local 10km?  With an army of over-the-top, overly-aggressive, ex-SAS security staff, that’s how… Asking someone to not take your photo is simply going to have the opposite effect. A better 1st step is to have your staff dash the camera on the ground and kick it to pieces before the person has had a chance to take the photo, or in fact even turn the camera on.  Better safe than sorry…

“…you don’t want this ruined by some prole with a camera taking a photo of you running that makes you look like a pregnant porpoise with gout.”


7. Do all 6… And more… Become a triathlete

If running is too down-to-earth and straightforward for you, and you really want to indulge in some proper “cheque book” race day improvements, then triathlon is the sport for you!

“I’m actually drafting off the 1st guy, which is why it is great that my Tri Suit is also a Romulan cloaking device”

You can start by getting the latest Tri Suit, which, if you pay enough , will service as both a Romulan Cloaking Device and allow you to teleport through a wormhole  in the first transition stage; leaving you with only 70km left to cycle.  Which will be an absolute breeze with the bike that you are going to buy… Oh yes, not content with dropping a mere ten grand on the latest Cervelo time trial bike, you have decided that the best way to get that “edge” is to requisition the entire Cervelo factory for 6 months. You will poach Nasa’s top aerospace engineer and you will have it made out of unobtainium*, which is the substance that they were mining on the planet with all the creatures with the blue faces in Avatar.  Sure, unobtainium is rare, and it will be hard to get enough to make a full bike frame…But the extinction of an entire population of blue-faced, indigenous,3D natives is a small price to pay for those extra milliseconds.  And it is still easier than training…

"Sorry, your dignified ancient race must die.  Boyontherun needs a new bike"

“Sorry, your dignified ancient race must die. Boyontherun needs a new bike”

* When I was watching Avatar in the cinema and they dropped the line “…we are mining unobtainium” I did yell out “what the hell!” and dash my 3D glasses on the ground in disgust. Seriously, do they edit scripts?

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Why I’m glad I’m more of a runner than a cyclist

I’ve always been a runner but in the last few years (mainly for transport and medical reasons) I’ve dabbled in the world of the cyclist.  I’ve bought the road bike, the clip shoes, the helmet and I’ve donned lycra that fits tight around the old Jatz crackers.  I’m aware that I completely suck on the bike, but I love cycling so much that I’m just happy cruising around Spanish/Italian/French/Moroccan hill towns, drinking cappucinos and wearing tights with my male friends.  In short, I like amateur non-serious cycling.  If I took it seriously maybe I wouldn’t like it so much.  Here is a list of reasons why sometimes I’m just glad that I’m a runner.

rapha cycling poseur

“My classic cycling pose. Not working very hard, ironic mustache, looking like a poseur and not cycling. “

1) Running at the elite level is clean

Lets face it, there are less drugs in the average London super club at 2:00am than there was in the pro cycling peloton in the 90s. Cycling is one of the few sports where the main ascent climbs have actually got markedly slower over time as they have cleaned up the sport.

“Lance Armstrong signing into stage 4 of the 2002 Tour de France”

Now, I hear you ask, how do you know that the elite runners, primarily the Kenyans and Ethiopians do not use performance-enhancing drugs? I guess I have no proof, but to be honest I’m not even sure a lot of the elite African runners can afford proper running shoes, let alone EPO. I mean, we’re talking about a culture whose main carbohydrate is Ugali, a mixture of water and maize flour, which is basically glue. I’m pretty sure these guys don’t have access to a flashy Italian doctor scheduling an intense program of EPO micro dosing.

2) Minimal Lycra

Obviously women love to see a man’s package and I’m all for the occasional airing of the “lunchbox”.  It is just that sometimes when people are enjoying a meal at a cafe, and my friends and myself have have rolled into town with our tight-fitted bib shorts, I get the feeling that we’ve just put a lot of people off their food.  Although I have no doubt that emaciated blokes with massive shaved legs are every girls’ dream, I think sometimes too much lunchbox can effect… well… lunch. Running is nice in that you can have a post run coffee without looking like you’re smuggling a sausage wrapped in clingfilm.

polish cycle team lycra

“I think sometimes too much lunchbox can effect… well… lunch.”

3) Cost

Even with the most expensive running kit that money can buy, running can never compete with the cost of cycling. Even with the cost of the bike and maintenance removed, the cost of bike clothing is for some strange reason about three times as expensive as running clothing. All my running friends have a drawer full of freebie running shirts from the last 5 years of races, whereas my cycling friends are shelling out over £100 for the latest Rapha jersey. For example, Rapha make a gilet (which is basically a sleeveless shirt) for £120.  Yes, you heard that correctly… £120.  To be honest, for that money I’d want it to be made out of Justin Bieber’s pubic hair. Actually, no I wouldn’t. In fact, that is just a nasty thought. Now, Rapha would defend their cost arguing that it was made from a “technical fabric”.  At that price I’d want the fabric to be so technical it was able to compete an advanced Sudoku on a 4 hour ride. And the crossword.

You can, however, save plenty of money on cycling kit by purchasing cycling clothing from recently disgraced cyclists! I bought a George Hincapie (banned for 6 months in 2012) gilet at a very nice discount.  And I hear Livestrong clothing is very cheap right now…

"15% off!  I don't know why but I'll take it!"

“15% off! I don’t know why but I’ll take it!”

4) Faff

Running is simple. With the exception of the Garmin GPS holders standing in the freezing cold trying to get a signal (but instead just getting GPS pneumonia), everyone turns up, everyone nods and everyone starts running.  Occasionally someone refers to their watch, but on the whole, no one faffs and nothing breaks. You can only dream of this simplicity in cycling. Welcome to the world of punctures, dropped  chains, worn break pads, stiff gear levers, broken derailleurs, snapped pannier racks, twisted spokes, torn bar tape, and getting run over by a truck. In cycling you can lose 3 hours of a 4 hour ride to punctures.  I’ve been on long rides where after the 4th puncture everyone has just given up and gone home.  I’ve never ever aborted a run in that way…

“Welcome to the world of punctures, dropped chains, worn break pads, stiff gear levers, broken derailleurs, snapped pannier racks, twisted spokes, torn bar tape, and getting run over by a truck.”

5) Crashes during races

My housemate used to go out and race in London on a Sunday and about one in every three times he used to come back covered in a mass of bandages and “road rash”. This just doesn’t happen in running.  I’ve never had any of my running friends talk of “total unavoidable wipeouts” at the local park run.  I can just imagine my friend Paul going:

“And then the veteran guy took the 3rd turn too fast and brought down the young guy and there was nothing I could do but go down. Hopefully my grazes will heal by next week.”

Although there is a slight exception to this rule in that I tend to have one “spectacular fall” every year.  This doesn’t involve anyone else, and is mainly down to my “limited co-ordination”.  My last fall involved overtaking a pedestrian and running face first into a bus stop.  I may have fallen on the ground and grazed most of my bodily surfaces, but it was my pride that was injured the most.  As I my girlfriend says:

“Who goes out running and runs into stationary objects?”

I do.  Apparently.

6) Politics

Cycling is mostly something that makes me very happy.  I love being on the bike for both commuting and long bike trips but there is still the odd occasion where a run-in with a driver leaves me fuming.  I remember when I got my motorcycle licence.  The guys running the course spent the whole time slagging off cyclists (in some cases with good reason) as being the “scum of the road”.  Of course as I wanted to pass, I didn’t reveal that I was a cyclist.  And when I did pass, the instructor commented that I had “excellent road awareness and bike handling”.  I replied that “that will be because I’m a road biker”. Awkward silence…  I think it would be better if I said “I’ve gone round to your house and done a poo in your bed”.  I actually thought he was going to fail me.

“Running is great in that you don’t have to end a session screaming at someone that there is “NO SUCH THING AS ROAD TAX””

Running is great in that you don’t have to end a session screaming at someone that there is “NO SUCH THING AS ROAD TAX” and that they are a “FAT BULLY IN A ONE TONNE CAGE” and then question the sense of your actions as they storm towards your stationary, clipped-into-bike figure.

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Sorry – Boy On The run is on holiday

Sorry guys, I am currently cycling across Morocco and will not be posting until Jun 12th. I do have some awesome posts lined up, sorry for the delay!

Boy On The Run (in an Internet cafe in Fez)

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The art of overtraining

Sun Tzu – Author of “The Art of War” vs Duncan – Author of “The Art of Overtraining”

Step 1 – Never let your body recover

This is the fundamental concept behind the “art” (and yes it is an art) of overtraining. If you find yourself feeling weird emotions such as “relaxed” or “refreshed” and that you’re actually enjoying running, then it is time to take it up a notch. Double your distance, speed and intensity.  It isn’t until you are a waterlogged, cramping, exhausted, puking bag of malnourished bones that you can truly call yourself a runner. Until then you are a part time jogger.

Step 2 – Increase your mileage exponentially

Stare down your weekly mileage; Steve Waugh style.

Steve Waugh would never have stared down a generation of West Indian pace bowlers and destroyed England in 3 Ashes series if he’d done things by half measures. If Steve Waugh was a runner he would have increased his mileage exponentially. Steve Waugh’s predicted 10-week training plan:

Week 1 20 miles Week 2 40 miles
Week 3 80 miles Week 4 160 miles
Week 5 320 miles Week 6 640 miles
Week 7 1280 miles Week 8 2560 miles
Week 9 5120 miles Week 10 10240 miles

Sure, 10 240 miles seems like a long way. But if you “attack the distance” and knock off the first 10 000 miles in the weekdays, you’re left with an easy 240 on Saturday and a rest day on Sunday.  Easy!

Step 3 – Bunch your quality sessions together

A lot of runners like to space their runs in a general:


pattern.  To overtrain properly, I highly recommend bunching all your tough workouts together, ideally doing all of them in the same day:

easy/easy/tough x 3/easy/easy

That way you can coast the remaining 5-6 days doing junk miles on your injury-wracked legs.

Step 4 – Reduce your sleep

babies sleep

“Babies sleep a lot. That tells you everything you need to know about sleep”

Babies sleep a lot.  That tells you all you need to know about sleep. Many runners argue that sleep is “where you recover” and it is in fact just as important as the training.  In my opinion, that is a load of new age rubbish.  If pain is weakness leaving the body, then sleep is the body forgetting what it fought for and letting the weakness back in.  Minimize sleep at all costs.

Step 5 – Experiment with fad diets banoffee pie “I hear that Lindsey Lohan is on a  new diet where she only eats raw zebra meat, watermelon and banoffee pies?” you hear from a friend…  This is what you’ve been waiting for! Now is the time to abandon all that boring and innefective carb/protein old skool rubbish and get with the times. Nothing is going to get you overtrained and ready to underperform better than a triple interval session followed by 4 banoffee pies, half a watermelon and a bowl of raw zebra meat.  Lets face it, you never liked brown rice anyway….

Step 6 – Ignore all injuries

Always stick by the runners’ motto:

“Only accept advice on injuries that doesn’t involve stopping running.  And never go to a doctor or physio, because they’ll just tell you to stop running.”

We live in a world of hypochondriacs banging on about their torn cruciate ligaments and ruptured Achilles tendons.  Blah blah blah.  Here are for some tips for dealing with injuries like a warrior, and not a scared kitten.

1) If you can’t see it, it isn’t an injury

That’s right.  That pain in your knee is 99% psychological.  Triple your training and I promise it will go away.

2) Most injuries are caused by undertraining

Your aching bones and flu-like symptoms are the cause of only doing one 20 mile run on a Sunday. It is your body’s way of registering disappointment that you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough.

3) Stretching is time you could be using to run harder

Stretching is for dancers and yoga instructors.  So you’ve stretched your hamstring so they are all nice and warmed up?  Well done loser.  You could have done two full-tilt mile reps in that time.

Some workouts to help you overtrain

emil zatopek intervals

You can learn a lot from the old skool master of “dangerous overtraining”

Zátopek Intervals

You can learn a lot from the old skool master of “dangerous overtraining”; Emil Zátopek.  One of Emil’s favourite workouts was 50 x 400m with 30 seconds of rest.  It is usually a good idea to call the ambulance during the 40th rep, so it is ready for you when you finish.

Triple Long Run

If one 20 mile run improves your marathon time by 1%, imagine what 3 will do?  Especially if you do them in the same day! Here is  a suggested routine:

1 x 20 mile “rep” @ 30 seconds slower than race pace
2 hour rest
1 x 20 mile “rep” @ race pace
1 hour rest
1 x 20 mile “rep” @30 seconds slower than race pace

Grizzly Bear Lactate Run

grizzly bear lactate

You’ll find having a 300kg grizzly bear ready to “rip your throat out” incredible motivation

This is like a typical lactate run except with a grizzly bear that has been trained to run at your goal pace following close behind you. You’ll find having a 300kg grizzly bear ready to “rip your throat out” incredible motivation.

How to know that you are not overtraining properly


Underneath his stern facade, Skeletor was actually very sensitive about his weight.

– Kids have stopped yelling “Skeletor!” at you
– You are only having 3 Vicodin at breakfast
– You only puke once after a tough workout and call that a “tough workout”
– You have an immune system

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Running a marathon with the Norovirus (Gastric flu) – a step-by-step guide

1st Step – DO Get the norovirus (gastric flu)

The best way is to overtrain until there is absolutely nothing left of your immune system.  I will explain the secrets to “The art of overtraining”  in my next blog.  After you have reduced your immune system to dust, hang out late in bars with people that have recently been violently ill with the Norovirus.  If you can, forget which glass is which.  Share fluids as much as  possible.

2nd Step – Ignore the symptoms for as long as possible

Sure, you are tapering and are supposed to feel fantastic.  Instead you feel nauseous every minute of every day and everyone comments on how pale you look.  Sometimes kids see your white face and just burst into tears.  Sure, you look and feel like s*** every single moment of every day, but that is a hole that is nicely filled with a concept known as “denial”.  After all, what would Steve Waugh do?  He would bat through the pain.


What would Steve Waugh do? He would bat through the pain.

3rd Step – Get some professional medical advice.  And then ignore it…

When I asked the doctor whether I should still run the marathon he gave a little incredulous laugh.  And said:

“No.  Are you crazy?”

My feeling is that all general practitioners of medicine are fat smokers.  In lieu of this I decided to ignore the fat smoker’s “advice”.  After all, those weird medical buzzwords like “diarrhea”, “vomiting”, “abdominal pain” and “cramping” are all really confusing and hard to understand. Verdict: run anyway.  After all, what can go wrong in 3 hours of prolonged, hardcore strenuous activity that pushes the body to the limits?  I’ve knocked out viruses on my computer in minutes.

“My feeling is that all general practitioners of medicine are fat smokers”

4th Step – Throw in some random combinations of medication

When you are sitting in a portaloo,  feeling like Sigourney Weaver in alien, and taking a combination of a maltodextrin energy bars, 2 different types of gastric medication, 2 Imodiums and lucozade; there is always a part of you that accepts that something might go wrong in the next few hours.  My tip is to push that feeling to the back of your mind.  Of course your stomach sounds like someone is inside pouring water from one glass to another and swirling like a whirlpool and your colon is twitching like a pink rabbit nostril.  It is just pre-race nerves. Ignore it and prepare to run for 3 hours with limited toilet facilities.

there is always a part of you that accepts that something might go wrong in the next few hours

there is always a part of you that accepts that something might go wrong in the next few hours

5th Step – Persist with your gameplan even when it is obviously not going to work

Should I adjust my gameplan to counter the fact that I have gastric flu?  Yeah sure.  Instead of:

– run the first 20 miles @ 6:45 and hang in there

I’ll be swapping over to:

– run as many miles @ 6:45 as you can and try and cross the line before you blackout.

Safety first.

6th Step – Give up.  Then realise you can’t because you have not plan B

I actually stopped at 15 miles in the race.  I tore my number off and prepared to exit the race.  All the French supporters (Paris Marathon) said:

French Supporter: “Monsieur!  You cannot give up! You can do it”

Me: (shakes head)

French Supporter:“Monsieur!  This is your running moment!  You will run the beautiful race!  You must not let anything stop you!”

Me: (Projectile vomits on the pavement next to supporter.  Drops to knees. Projectile vomits again). Where is the nearest Portaloo?

French Supporter: “You need to go to a hospital. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

The problem with having no Plan B is that when you emerge from the Portaloo clutching your vomit and poo-covered number in the middle of Paris with no phone, no map and no travelcard, you pretty much have no option but to rejoin the race.  Which I did. Hey, only 11 miles to go!


Plan B didn’t make it on the day

7th Step – Cross the finish line.  Then strap in for 2 weeks of violent vomiting, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms.  You’ve earned it. 

There is a lot of talk in marathons of fuelling strategy.  Mine was roughly to:
– Not carb-load because I have a gastric illness
– Throw up what small amount of food and water I manage to hold down halfway through the race. Including medication that is keeping my illness and bowels in check.
– Throw in a bit of diarrhea to assist with hydration
– Run the rest of the race in this state

I don’t remember so much of the last 6 miles.  I remember it being touch and go about blacking out in the last half mile.  I was lucky and it actually wasn’t until 5 days later that the Norovirus finally kicked in and completely destroyed me.

You’d think an experience like that would put me off running.  It hasn’t.  It has, however put me off running marathons for a few years.  I’ll be back one day though…

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