Interview with a runner – Russell James

Russell James is a barefoot runner from Killarney, a rural town of 250 letterboxes S E of Warwick, QLD, Australia on the foothills of the great divide just below the main range national park.

When Russell isn’t running he has an Urban farm setup where he supplies organic produce from a roadside stall and

markets. Russell and his partner also run a mobile event food van specialising in Allergen free plant-based foods, you can check out his business at Spudelicious.
Russell has personal bests over the following distances;
Half marathon  1.27.10
10k                     40.03
5k                       20.12
Thanks for spending some time with us Russell.

1. How long have you been running, and how did you start?

I started running as part of getting into triathlon. I was coming off the back of a long illness from a brain parasite that I contracted and I was looking for a sport that would get me fit.
That was back when I was 37 years old which is 24 years ago now. Apart from a time that I had a severely broken and shattered toe joint I have been running ever since then.

2. What running achievement are you most proud of?

I think what would come to mind would be representing Australia for the world championship triathlon event in Canada.
It wasn’t my best run as per times though, as I was the third Australian home in my age group and 33rd way down the list as an international competitor but representing Australia was a real blast.
Another running achievement that I am always proud of is someone coming up to me after the run and commenting how I can run so well in bare feet.

3. What is your biggest tip to becoming a successful runner?

I think as is any secret to successful outcomes is to understand the “why” of what you do.
 For me it was a desire to get well and fit, over the successive years it has changed its value and meaning to fit into more of a lifestyle choice and activities.
So for me, the stage of what I regard as ” successful running”  that I am in, I would sum up with the saying ” I’m not in it for the medal haul I’m in it for the long haul.”
The practical bio-mechanics of being a successful runner that I would put forward is getting your form right and all the running mechanics lined up before you start to stack on the kilometres. I would without any hesitation make the suggestion to a new runner to do barefoot foot strengthening and joint mobility work coupled with core strength work before you start to put trash miles on bad form.

4. What is your favourite training session?

It depends on what cycle of training that I am in.
Though I have not trained seriously for a number of years, it doesn’t mean I am not competitive but for me to train hard, my favourite training session needs other people to push me on 400m repeats around the track preferably grass.
This I find really helps me to sharpen up on the top end speed, yet, at the same time brings together the base work I like to do as strength work which I like as hill ( trail ) running.

5. How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?

I think this question brings you back to the “why”  you run.  For me running, mobility, fitness, plant-based nutrition are lifestyle choices which underpin my desire for healthy active ageing.
Running is part of the quest I have taken on, to be using this life I’ve been given to its maximum potential in this physical sheath that has been given to me.
Understanding there are cycles in all things and ebbs and flows within life, how you deal with ” lack of motivation” means at some stages if I’m not motivated to get out the door for a run its no big deal, pick it up the next week, the next day, the next month, whatever ………  I’m in it for the long haul.

6. What are your favourite running shoes?

Tricky question, I have been through many varieties of minimalist running sandal never really finding one that I liked, I tried Merrill as a minimalist shoe but there were a few things about them that didn’t suit me.
At the moment I am using a pair of Altra lone peak trail running shoes but most times I prefer to run barefoot.
Though I am looking for a good 5K running flat that I can use when I need an A race effort.

7. What are your goals for the future?

How far do you want to project into the future for this answer but I have consistently stated that a future goal for my running activity is to hold a world title for the 5K track championships for the 90-year-old age division.
Apart from that, I would like to be able to encourage as many people as I can to spend more time barefoot and to engage in an active lifestyle that is full of functional movement and healthy compassionate nutritional choices.
The best way I know how to do this is lead by example of healthy ageing and to be available to share any useful information I may have learned on the way. My last couple of years of parkrun have been a mixed bag of results as overall times but I have been generally in the top 3 age group finishers most runs I think it’s up to 63 last I looked.
We were doing a 50 in 50 challenge  that was 50 parkruns in 50 weekends  which we posted on our youtube channel  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLh1yQBA5WcPAeVX4yjy8eL24Kp4HxkKy1 , but in February 2017 my youngest son was killed in a car accident and life took a different turn for us and we moved out here to Killarney where we are now.
We have been supporters and race ambassadors for the Warwick pentath race …. next year I want to have a good crack at the 10k hill ascent so I am putting back on the “serious” training hat.
Thanks ever so much for your time and for detailing your running career. Good luck with your running in the future, achieving your goals in the future. If you’d like to follow Russell’s running journey be sure to follow him on Strava at Russell James and Instagram @wattzupsport. 

Use the code: runninger20 for a 20% discount on all eyewear at ND:R Elite performance Sunglasses https://aus.naked-runner.com

Why Minimalist Footwear May Be Your Best Decision Yet

Walking is one of the most popular fitness activities in the world, and it’s easy to understand why. The exercise is low impact, so many people can easily do it regardless of age or physical condition.

That said, like any other form of exercise, walking is simply easier and more beneficial when you have the right gear. Whether that’s comfortable sandals for a walk on the beach, or a supportive pair of sneakers for heavy-duty power walks, your apparel can make or break your workout.

That doesn’t mean you have to shell out big bucks for fitness equipment. Instead, simply having the right footwear is often all you need.

Consider a pair of minimalist walking shoes if you’re looking for a style that will boost your strength and overall balance as well. The following information will help you better understand why this may be the ideal option for your needs.

What You Need to Know About Minimalist Walking Shoes

Most popular walking shoes include an arch. That’s not the case with the minimalist style. These shoes feature a flat sole, as well as extra space for a person’s toes. This allows for a freer range of motion than other styles typically provide.

Minimalist walking shoes were designed to more closely mimic the beneficial effects of walking barefoot. Obviously, most people don’t feel comfortable walking barefoot most of the time, and finding a surface to walk on that’s free of painful debris isn’t easy.

However, studies show that people who frequently wear traditional walking shoes are prone to anatomical changes. Quite simply, this type of footwear constricts the feet and limits their functionality.

Minimalist walking shoes reduce this constricting effect. This offers a wide range of benefits. For example, the arch in most walking shoes doesn’t allow certain muscles in the feet and legs to develop as fully as they would if a person were walking barefoot.

Essentially, the added support prevents walkers from using muscles that serve a genuine purpose. Switching to minimalist walking shoes allows them to use these muscles more freely. The effects of this style on balance are also positive. Shoes that constrict the toes prevent the wearer from taking advantage of the foot’s true shape. When the toes have more space, the feet return to their natural triangular shape. This added surface area provides a foundation for the body that results in enhanced balance. Evidence also suggests that it results in better posture over time.

To find the pair of minimalist walking shoes that’s best for you, consider where you plan on walking. For instance, if you plan on hiking or walking in unpaved conditions, opt for a pair with a thick sole. Many styles are designed for this purpose. While you’ll probably find that walking in minimalist shoes requires some adjustment at first, the long term benefits are more than worth it.

 

By Rae Steinbach

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing (of course).

Her twitter handle is @araesininthesun

 

Marathon Training – Week 9

The last week of marathon training went through without me running the amount of kilometres I’ve planned but managing to hit all my key sessions. Only managed 66km of running this week and mainly because I just didn’t feel great in many of the sessions.

The key session of the week were Tuesday’s hill efforts, Friday’s aerobic long run and Sunday’s interval session. I completed an aerobic run on both Monday and Thursday with both runs not feeling great and only completing between 7-8km during each. Tuesday hills went fine, although I still didn’t feel great throughout the run but managed to completed the desired efforts.

Long run on Friday was planned for 2 hours 40 min of aerobic running and I completed this although  felt poor throughout the run. From the first kilometre to the last I felt ordinary. Stomach issues made me need to stop for a bathroom break mid run which is something that rarely happens to me. Managed to get the job done but it was a struggle. Felt very tired and depleted after this run. I over slept on Saturday and missed my run before needing to go to work and therefore took an unscheduled rest day.

Sunday I finally felt good for the week and completed my interval session in very hot and humid conditions. Managed to hit all my efforts as planned and felt good through out the run. 12 x 2 min at faster then half marathon pace with a float/recovery of 1 min between efforts at between 4:30-5 min/km. Very happy to end a toughish week feeling and running better then it started.

Week 9 and now just six more weeks of training and tapering till marathon race day. Feeling like I’m on target but need to push hard the next 4-5 weeks to get ready to run fast on race day. This week I’m running a half marathon on Sunday and want to use this race to test my fitness and racing mind. Aiming to run consistent pace throughout and try and finish the last 5km hard. Will also continue to build mileage this week, no time or need to taper at all for this half marathon.

Monday – Aerobic (60 -90 min)

Tuesday – Hills (60 min)

Wednesday – Aerobic (60 min)

Thursday – Intervals (12 x 2 min)

Friday – Rest

Saturday – Aerobic medium long run( 90-120 min)

Sunday – Race – Half Marathon

Looking forward to another testing week, hoping to build my kilometres to around 80-90km. Saturday medium long run will be run depending on feel, if I feel like it feels harder than it should I’ll stop at 90 min or potentially less so I am ready to race Sunday.

The half marathon on Sunday I’ll be running in Galdsoles Trail 8mm sandals. These are my favourite Gladsoles model and at their best over races up to this distance. I’m still undecided whether I’ll run canberra Marathon in these or shoes yet. That decision is a few weeks away.

Later in the week I will have a review of a product I’ve been testing/using from Coolcore. They are an Australian based company that manufacture a range of products from a fabric which provides a cooling effect. I’ve been using the ‘multi chill’ for a couple of weeks now. I’ll post a review later in the week.

Reach out for any questions, queries or concerns

Run well

Will running a half marathon improve your marathon?

 

Running a half marathon during a marathon preparation is both a common and a logical stepping stone to the marathon. But will it help improve your running if running the marathon is your true goal?

Personally, I am running a half marathon in ten days which will feature in week 9 of my 14 week marathon preparation. Do I believe running the half marathon will help me run a better marathon?  No and yes.

The reason I don’t believe the half marathon helps improve the marathon is because the marathon doesn’t really start to well after half way. When you run through halfway in a marathon you’ll need to be feeling pretty fresh if you plan to run a solid second half. This won’t be the case when you race a half marathon, as the pace should be faster and you’ll give your best effort over the half marathon distance. You shouldn’t get to the end of the half marathon and feel like you can run it again.

Having said that, racing a half marathon gives an opportunity to have a better then race pace effort and test your fitness. If you can run a hard half marathon and finish in good shape then training must be going well and confidence can be gained from this race performance.

On the flip side, running a hard half marathon may result in you needing to take a day or two off training post race that could be used to continue to train for the marathon. You could be better advised to skip the half marathon and put in a longer then half marathon distance long run on the weekend of the race.

Running a half marathon isn’t easy though and has it’s own set of challenges. It is not half as much effort or half as hard to run a half marathon to a marathon. Naturally you will run at a faster pace when running a half marathon and being able to hold this pace consistently becomes difficult. Arguably just as difficult as holding your pace at the end of a marathon. This is where the benefit of racing can help you improve for your next race.

Ultimately when holding your pace becomes difficult during the end of a race of any distance the mind is what needs the training. Running a half marathon and fighting off the mental thoughts to give up can certainly help you run better at the marathon. When self doubt creeps in it’s important to shut that door quickly and give your best effort. Really it’s only racing where you get to test this out, you can’t get this from training.

Whilst running a half marathon won’t physically improve you on the way to a marathon, racing gives the strength and confidence that you’ll need during a marathon. Racing gives a valuable experience in staying in the moment and not giving up, this is an ingredient that has to be present during a marathon.

In ten days time I’ll race a half marathon and while I’m not expecting to gain any physical benefit that will help in the marathon the practise of racing will help when the mental battles start in the marathon. And this is the reason why a race during a marathon preparation is valuable.

Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

Run well.

 

 

Marathon training week 3

 

A successful week of marathon training getting through all my scheduled training. All my training went to plan, however after my long run on Friday I have been a little sore in my right foot. Nothing dramatic but some pain on the outside of my foot that hasn’t gone away as quickly as I’d like. Not an injury just a grumpy foot that needs some monitoring.

I have decided to take a couple of days off and rest the foot and make sure at this early stage of my marathon preparation that it doesn’t become an injury. So far no running, cycling or swimming this yet this week. Training will start again tomorrow and follow this pattern this week.

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – Rest

Wednesday – Run – Hills

Thursday – Swim – 40 min aerobic

Friday – Run – Intervals

Saturday – Bike – Long ride (2 hours)

Sunday – Run – Long run ( 2 hours – Goal marathon pace)

This week I am due to run my first goal pace long run of this preparation, this will depend on how my foot feels after the rest of the training this week. If there is still some pain I may revert back to an aerobic long run and run the goal pace run in week 4. There is plenty of time to get the training right for this marathon and making sure my grumpy foot doesn’t become and injury is important. taking a couple of days off is certainly not going to pose any problem but if it were to get worse and more time off was needed it would not be ideal.

Looking forward to getting back into to training tomorrow.

How is your training going? Are you on track for your goal races?

The Long Run

 

The long run has been the staple of running training ever since competitive running began. Every training guide ever written for running includes regular long runs. This is because it is the tried and tested method of increasing endurance for overall running improvement.

Every runner, regardless of the distance of races they run should run regular long runs. If you only ever race 5km races then a long run will give you the same benefit as a marathoner. The benefit is increased endurance. In running terms endurance is the ability to sustain a prolonged effort or activity.  Increasing endurance will help you give your best effort towards the end of your runs and races.

The long run length should be long relative to your overall mileage and race goals. There is no point pushing through a two hour long run if you only ever race up to 5km. A good rule of thumb is to schedule your long run to be roughly 20% of your overall weekly mileage. For a 5km runner who does 35-40km a week an 8-10km long run is more than sufficient. However for the runner training for longer races putting in 80-100km a week they will need a longer run to get the benefits.

As you run longer races the long run should build in time. I am currently in week two of a 14 week marathon preparation, my long run this week was at 1 hour 45 min and will build over the next 10 weeks until I reach a three hour long run. If I’m not focussed on a specific race distance then just maintaining a weekly long run that is roughly 20% of my total weekly mileage still has a  great effect on your overall endurance .

Focus on keeping your running at an aerobic pace. Pace doesn’t matter during a long run, keep the pace comfortable and ensure you get through the time. The seeds of endurance are harvested at an aerobic pace. This should also help make the long run the most enjoyable run of the week. Keeping the pace aerobic allows you to enjoy your run and the surroundings your running in.

Run long, run often and then run long again.

How did your long run go this week?

 

 

 

Marathon Training week 2

This marathon plan has started and week 1 went almost to plan. Completed all my run sessions as planned, with my hill session, interval and long run all going well.

Tuesday’s hill session was run over a familiar terrain and I completed this session and felt strong throughout. Thursday I completed intervals of 12 x 2 min at 3:30 min/km with a 1 min float between, a humid start to the day here made for a challenging session. Sunday’s long run was slightly shorter than planned at 1 hour 30 min but comfortable at an aerobic pace.

My other triathlon disciplines didn’t go quite to plan with just one swim and ride. I had a long ride planned on Saturday and felt fatigued when I woke up so I skipped this session and wasn’t able to make my afternoon pool session due to family commitments. Overall not a disaster in the first week of a preparation as I’m still adjusting to life back on the bike and in the pool.

This week sees a similar schedule;

Monday –             Swim                     (30 min – 1.5km)

Tuesday –             Run                       (Hills – 1 hour)

Wednesday –      Bike                        (Aerobic – 1 hour)

Thursday –           Swim                     (30 mins – 1.5km)

Friday    –              Long run              (Aerobic – 1:45 min)

Saturday              Bike                       (Aerobic – 1:30 min including single leg drills)

Sunday                 Run                       (Intervals 8 x 3 min – 1 min float)

 

Looking at a week without a rest day to ensure I get all my sessions completed. For the next few weeks I want to make sure I complete each session and develop the fitness needed.

Good luck with your own training or racing this week.

One lesson from a good and bad marathon

Marathons of last year for me were both good and bad and one lesson stands out above others. For both of these marathons my training was strong, I didn’t suffer injury along the way and was able to get to the start line fit and healthy. On both occasions I was confident of running a good race.

The lesson learnt is don’t be too quick to lose motivation and give up.

In the good marathon things went to plan from the start. I was able to comfortably run the pace I wanted to run and enjoy the race. When the marathon starts at 30km you need to be ready to give your best effort. On this day I was ready, motivated and for the last 10-12km when running became more difficult I was prepared to dig deep and give everything I had to get to the finish line.

In the bad marathon things didn’t quite go to plan from the start. The weather was unseasonably hot, I wasn’t prepared for this and didn’t adjust my pace early enough because of this. I was still able to run the pace I wanted to early in the race but by 30km when you need to dig deep I was cooked and didn’t have the motivation to dig even deeper. This lead to my legs cramping and I gave up and needed to walk. If I had adjusted my pace earlier and recognised that it wasn’t going to be the easiest day things may have been different.

Sometimes it seems easier not to adjust your pace and go through a tougher process to get to the finish line. I believe on this occasion I gave up too quickly, recognised it was going to be a tough day and didn’t give my best effort over the final quarter of the marathon.

In the good marathon I was buoyant as things were going to plan until 30km. Because of this my motivation was high and  I felt ready to give my best effort when I needed to most and was able to finish in a personal best time. The marathon is complicated race, nothing prepares you for the kilometres after 30km. Long runs in training give you the base to be ready but what happens in the final quarter of a marathon is mostly mental. It’s important to see it through to the finish and stay motivated even if things aren’t quite going to plan.

In my marathons I attempt to keep my pacing as consistent as possible, from 1km to 42km. The change in effort required to run the first to last kilometre is astronomical though. It is very easy to let self doubt creep into your mind as you tick over the kilometres, the key (easier said then done) is to keep believing and accept that the journey through a marathon is not going not to be easy.

Part of the process is knowing to sense you are giving up. It might be just some small thoughts that the pace is getting hard to hold. When things get tough as they in evidently and you recognise these thoughts it’s time to take a kilometre slightly slower, relax your breathing and get to the next aid station or kilometre marker. Stay strong, there is a finish line up the road soon and you’ll feel better once you are there.

In all races and especially marathons in the future I will try and teach myself to stay in the moment. Go through the process and do everything I can to keep self doubt out and give my best effort. The challenge the marathon presents in the final stages is why it’s so alluring. Disappointment for me comes from races where I know I gave up too quickly and could have done better if I was tougher mentally in the moments that mattered.

Is there a time when you recognise you’ve given up too soon?

Let the marathon training begin – Week 1

This coming week marks the start of my 14 week preparation for the Canberra marathon as well as integrating an ironman triathlon program into my schedule. The basis of this program is to run my three key sessions every week building up speed, endurance and strength over this period to peak for the marathon April 15th.

On top of this I will aim for two cycling sessions and two swim session per week to build other disciplines for Ironman 70.3 three weeks after the marathon.

The goal of the first week of the schedule is to begin to imbed this training rhythm into my cycle for the next 12 weeks. My priority is to continue to make running my priority sport however with a focus on the bike and pool. I am also planning to have one complete rest day in my each week.

Marathon training week 1

Monday                               Bike – Aerobic     (1 hour undulating course)

Tuesday                              Run –  Hills (2 x 2km hill repeats)

Wednesday                        Swim – (40 min – 2km)

Thursday                            Run –  Intervals  (12 x 2 min – 1 min recovery)

Friday                                  Rest

Saturday                             AM Bike  –  Long ride (1:45)                                       PM Swim (40min – 2km)

Sunday                                Run  –  Aerobic Long run (1:30)

This marathon program will be similar to recent programs where i have a two week taper before the race.  This one will be slightly different because I will still include swimming and cycling into the taper. This preparation will have a monthly goal pace long run starting in week 3 and with three weeks before the marathon a 3 x 14km race paced effort. These are focussed efforts to test my fitness during the cycle of training. The 3 x 14km effort is one I have used in my previous two marathon preparations and when this session goes well it is a great fitness test and confidence booster going into a marathon.

Still deciding whether to race in the lead up to this race. Not convinced racing a shorter distance during a preparation gives any benefit on marathon race day.

Motivated and looking forward to getting straight into training next week. My two weeks of training since Christmas has just been a warm up for the sessions to come. Now it’s time for the marathon and triathlon training to begin.

Is barefoot running a fad or running in cushioned shoes?

Yesterday I went running and i was not barefoot, it was my weekly interval session and I decided to wear Carson Footwear zero drop shoes for this run. I ran in these shoes for two reasons, they are awesome and I hadn’t run in them for a while. Normally when I run in sandals, I don’t see too many more people out running barefoot or in sandals. Yesterday I saw two people, I felt like I was the odd one out wearing shoes.

Of the two guys I saw running barefoot, one was a guy I know who has recently started running in some cool homemade sandals. The other guy I didn’t know but I noticed he had some very minimal shoes on and then when I passed him running the other way later in my run he was carrying them and running barefoot.

This got me thinking, is barefoot running the fad or is running in cushioned shoes the fad and is this fad coming to an end? When “Born to Run’ came out in 2009 and a lot of people attempted to transition to barefoot there was a lot of media about the new fad of barefoot running. But people have been running barefoot for thousands of years and only wearing cushioned running shoes for 40-50 years. So isn’t the fad that we decided to run in shoes 50 years ago?

When the barefoot running ‘fad’ started post 2009 there was very little information on transitioning and many people got injured and went back to wearing their cushioned running shoes. Nowadays there is a lot of information about foot health and transitioning advice. The best resource I know is The Foot Collective, this is a comprehensive guide on foot health and barefoot education that your should have a look at.

A few years ago when I started running in sandals it was unheard of to see another like minded runner. yesterday there was two, and if you count me in zero drop, wide toe box and minimal cushioned shoes there was three. Barefoot running isn’t the fad, and fads don’t last forever.

If you run in highly cushioned shoes they will impact your foots natural movement. They weaken your feet and contribute to injuries. If you want to stop neglecting your feet, change to a minimal footwear that allow your feet to move naturally. If you do decide to ditch the fad of cushioned running shoes take your time to build foot strength. Transitioning to barefoot is a marathon not a sprint, take the time to do it right to give you the best chance at a successful transition.

Make the choice, ditch the fad of cushioned running shoes and change your running forever. If you have any questions on barefoot running or transitioning let me know.

Free the feet in 2018.

 

If running in sandals seems like a good idea (which it is) Gladsoles . Use the coupon ‘therunninger’ and these awesome guys will happily give you a discount.