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. 

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Review – Gladsoles 10mm Super Trails

It’s no secret that my running footwear of choice is usually barefoot running sandals from US brand Gladsoles. I have now run in Gladsoles for almost five years now and for the past 2 – 3 years they have been on my feet more than any other. Whenever I am due for more barefoot running sandals I email Rich at Gladsoles and ask if he has anything new coming out. The purchase of these sandals came because my Trail 2.0 sandals had reached their decline after 1400km over all surfaces. This time around Rich let me know he had a new Vibram rubber that I may be interested in.

Enter the Gladsoles 10mm Super trail. These sandals are built on 10mm thick Vibram Nuflex rubber, the Trail 2.0 sandal was built on a 8mm thick Vibram Gumlite rubber. It was explained to me that the Nuflex rubber would be slightly less dense and slightly more flexible than the Gumlite rubber. If there was any criticism of the 8mm Gumlite rubber it would be that it was slightly too dense and didn’t have a lot of give.

What is missing from barefoot running sandals compared with most running shoes is mid sole foam. The mid sole foam is there to provide cushioning. When you run without mid sole foam your feet and ankles take more impact. There is no doubt this puts more stress on this area however in time the feet and ankles strengthen to the point where mid sole foam becomes irrelevant to your running. The effect of not having cushioning is mainly evident on longer runs as fatigue impacts running economy and running form. This has stopped me wearing sandals in road marathons to this point until my feet and ankles become even stronger. What I’ve been looking for in a barefoot running sandal is exactly what the 10mm Super Trail sounded like.

Immediately after running in the 10mm Super trail it was noticeable that the Nuflex rubber reacts slightly differently. It is quite a bit more flexible than the Gumlite rubber and slightly less dense. The benefit to this is a very small amount of give or cushion effect, that may be enough to help the feet, ankles and legs fatigue less through long runs and be able to run better for longer periods. The Nuflex rubber has been tested multiple times already on long runs of up to 3 hours 30 minute and this is evident.

Having a more flexible sandal means you still get fantastic feel from the ground whether you choose to run on road, trail or other surfaces. These have so far been tested on road, trail and beach conditions and passed each test comfortably. Initially this was a concern moving from a 8mm sandal to a 10mm rubber and whether this would affect the feedback you receive back from the ground. The 10mm sandal does give slightly less feedback however the benefits for longer runs outweigh this ever so slight negative.

The possible downside to a less dense rubber is longevity. The 8mm Gumlite have run 1400km and counting, I am unsure whether the 10mm Nuflex sandals will give this type of mileage. So far though they have run 150km and have virtually no visible signs of wear to the sole of the sandal. These sandals most certainly give 1200km+ meaning they are giving double what most running shoes twice their price return.

Gladsoles sandals are custom made to a tracing of both feet which you email when ordering. This is a huge benefit from any other product on the market. They are hand crafted and customised to your feet making sure that every sandal is a perfect fit for the individual runner.

So far the running experience in the Gladsoles 10mm Super Trail has been excellent. These are the fifth sandal I’ve owned from Gladsoles and for running long distances they are the best yet. Running in this sandal so far and testing it over marathon specific long runs in training, I am confident this sandal can get me through a road marathon (or a race on any other surface) in my best shape.

If you are looking for a barefoot running sandal for your running give Gladsoles some consideration. While they may not be the most recognised name in the barefoot sandal arena they make up for it by working hard to make a mighty good running sandal. The customisation can’t be understated as every sandal will fit perfectly and the customer service is superb.

The Gladsoles 10mm Super Trails are great choice of barefoot running sandal. #freethefeet

 

Marathon Training week 13 & 14 – Race week

The last few weeks of this marathon preparation have been slightly disjointed but things are finally falling into place now. At the end of week 12 I started to get a sore throat and head cold which meant I didn’t complete the week as planned and delayed my final long run.

Week 13 therefore had a different structure to most weeks of this preparation. I was planning a two week taper but missed my last long run and wanted to get this done before switching off and tapering. Week 13 went as follows;

Monday – Rest (Still sick)

Tuesday – Aerobic 45 min

Wednesday – Long Run including 4 x 5km at 4 min/km with 2 km aerobic rest between – Total 28km

Thursday – Aerobic 45 min

Friday – Rest

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Tempo run – 3 x 2km – first two 2km efforts at 3:55-4min/km, third at 3:30min/km – 1km recovery between.

The head cold I suffered returned at the end of the week and I decided to take Friday and Saturday off. The two major workouts this week were the final long run with 4 x 5km race pace or thereabouts efforts and the 3 x 2km tempo. Both these runs felt comfortable and leave me confident going into race week. Head cold is now 95% gone and I feel good about race week.

Only a  week left now till Canberra marathon and time to move into that final week taper phase. Not looking to much out there this week other then to keep the legs moving and be ready to race on Sunday. One short, fast session on Tuesday before taking it easy for the rest of the week.

Monday – Aerobic 35-40 min

Tuesday – Tempo – 3 x 1500 at race pace with 500m recovery with a  warm up and cool down.

Wednesday – Rest

Thursday – Aerobic 30 min

Friday – Aerobic 30 min

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Race Day

Overall happy with my preparation for this marathon. Fitness is as good as it could be and feeling motivated to give my best effort next Sunday. In some past races I have been relieved to get to the start line because the body needed a break from the training. This marathon I don’t feel that way and feel ready to race.

My goal for this marathon I to better my marathon personal best of 2 hour 57 min. The body and mind feel ready to get me there, but the marathon can be a troublesome beast and always throws a curveball your way. Looking forward to race day now.

Took a few of my aerobic runs to beach this week which was a nice run now daylight savings has finished in NSW, Australia and the sun is up a little earlier.

 

Marathon Training – Week 10

This weeks training culminated in the Port Macquarie Half Marathon where I ran a new personal best for this distance. One of the pleasing aspects of this is it came at the end of a relatively large week of marathon training.

Overall 77km ran this week including the half marathon to finish the week. Monday I completed an aerobic 13km. Tuesday my usual hill session of 9km, Wednesday another aerobic run of 8km and Thursday intervals which were 10 x 2 min with 1 min rest. I ran these efforts without looking at the pace on the watch and these efforts were comfortably hard between 3:30-3:40 min/km. Friday was rest day and Saturday I ran an aerobic 14km before racing on Sunday.

This week I am giving myself a little bit of time to recover from the race before getting straight back into training. No time to rest as the next three weeks are key endurance and speed building for Canberra Marathon on April 15th. A successful half marathon result during a training block has given me a lot of confidence that I can keep working hard over the next few weeks and run a good marathon.

Monday – Aerobic recovery run (30-40 min)

Tuesday – Rest

Wednesday – Hills ( 60 min)

Thursday – Aerobic (45-60 min)

Friday – Long Run – Aerobic ( 2 hours 40 min)

Saturday – Aerobic – (45 min)

Sunday – Intervals (2km half marathon pace – 500m hard x 4 with warm up and cool down)

Trying a new interval session this Sunday. Over a 10km course doing 2km at my half marathon pace 3:45-3:50min/km and then hitting 500m hard (approx 3:20-3:30min/km). And doing four efforts of these over the 10km. This will be a really tough session but if I can hit these efforts for 10km will give me a real confidence boost. may also still be somewhat tired from Fridays long run so looking forward to seeing how this session goes.

Next three weeks are key marathon specific weeks. Over the next few weeks I am going to throw some marathon specific training into my sessions. Next week I aim to drop hill repeats and transition to some harder tempo runs over a flat course. I feel strong now, time to take some time to work on marathon specific speed.

Let me know if you have any queries or concerns.

Run well

 

Marathon training week 12

A successful weeks training in week 11 of my program with my key sessions hit as planned. These were my hill repeats on Tuesday which as always tough but managed to get through the run. My long run on Friday I completed 39km and just under my goal time of 3:30, it’s very difficult to run almost past your house after 39 km and I didn’t have the willpower at that stage so I didn’t continue and run the extra 10 minutes. Sunday I completed intervals, these were 10 x 4 min at 3:45min/km with a 1 minute recovery between each. This was a really good session where I felt comfortable throughout and my favourite run of the week.

This week sees my last strong week of training before I start to taper off for the marathon on September 24th. Again my three key session will be run and for remaining runs I will keep the runs aerobic and make sure I get enough rest.

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – Hill repeats

Wednesday – Aerobic 40min

Thursday – Intervals ( 20 x 2 min with 1 min recovery)

Friday – Rest

Saturday – Long Run ( 3 x 14km)

Sunday – Aerobic 40 min

As the race gets closer I will run some shorter intervals this week but maintain the intensity that I have been running them. I have changed to these to a 2:1 effort/recovery ratio to help keep me fresher for the Saturday long run.

The Saturday long run is good session which i like to run a few weeks out from a marathon, 3 x 14km = 42km so essentially I am running a marathon in the three efforts with a 20-30 min recovery period between each. These will be run over a undulating trail and beach terrain close to my home at goal pace for the marathon. This session has been a real confidence boosting run for me in past marathons, coming out of the third effort well gives me the confidence that I am able to push my goal pace during the dark times that the marathon throws at you and helps you overcome these.

Looking forward to this week, it’s a week that will  allow me to test my training over the last 11 weeks and see where my fitness is at going into a marathon in a few weeks time.

Marathon training week 10

After a good week of training I am feeling back on track in this marathon preparation. In week 9 I only ran three times and these were my three key runs. On my Tuesday hill repeats I still felt my fitness hadn’t returned after the recent sickness I’ve had and struggled up my normal hill route. By Friday when I ran my long run I felt good and was able to complete the 2 hours 30 min run fairly comfortably and my intervals ran on Sunday was a good session.

This week I will still maintain my limited running and continue to remain fresh and ready for the sessions that I plan to run. However with only five weeks left before the race day i need to fast track my long run time and distance to get me to the race day in the condition i want to be in to run a marathon over a tough trail course.

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – Hills

Wednesday – Aerobic 40 min

Thursday – Intervals (8 x 4 min 90 sec recovery)

Friday – Rest

Saturday – Parkrun (5km fitness test)

Sunday – Long run ( 3 hour)

This week sees me extend my long run to 3 hours. Over the next few weeks I will build the long run to 3 hours 30 min. With three weeks remaining to the race I will complete another 3 x 1 hour session with a 30 min recovery between each. I ran this session over a flat course in the lead up to the Seoul Marathon and it was a real confidence booster going into that race, I aim to do the same session this preparation however over a trail course near home to give me the best preparation to the this marathon. This is a tough session that really mimics the marathon’s difficulties in one session, I will need to focus on the next few long runs to get the best out of myself.

Intervals and hills this week are standard sessions that I continue to do to build speed and strength. I want to run a park run this Saturday just to test my speed and fitness, last time I ran Parkrun I was just over my flu and was two minutes outside my best, it will be interesting to see if I am closer to my best times a fortnight later.

Looking forward to this weeks training and putting myself into a few tough sessions to build my fitness. Your goals don’t come and find you, you have to go out there and chase them.

 

Running into a gale

Sometimes you need to run in difficult conditions and currently in NSW, Australia we are experiencing some wild weather. Mostly winds and some very windy conditions over the past few days. Today was particularly windy with the bureau registering wind gust of up to 61km/h today in my home town. The forecast for the remainder of the weekend is similar with the forecast for tomorrow ‘chance of a shower, very windy.’

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Now the show must go on and tomorrow morning I have my interval session and expect to run this in very windy conditions. Hopefully all my efforts are down wind and all my recoveries are up wind although this feels like wishful thinking. Either way the running continues, a little bit of wind never stopped a good run and it won’t stop me at the break of dawn tomorrow morning.

The running must continue rain, hail wind or shine. Although I highly doubt I will see shine.

What is the worst conditions you’ve run?

 

Unknown

Consistency is crap

There is a common thought in running that consistency is the key to improving running and achieving results. While I believe there is some truth to this overall I believe it is flawed and the idea of consistency is a misconception. Ultimately consistency is crap and variety and focussed training are more important.

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The definition of consistency is ” to steadfastly  adhere to the same principles, course, form, etc.” In running this basically means to do the same workouts on regular basis until you improve. I am certainly an advocate of having structure in your training and it is one of my simple beliefs to run variations of my three key workouts each week to build focussed speed, strength and endurance. 

Where I believe consistency is crap is that a training program needs to have variety and flexibility in structure so that the runner is able to take time off if sick or sore. Also variety in the workouts that are planned that keep the runner enjoying running and improving and reassessing their training to continue to improve.

A lot of coaches will program a structured six day per week program with a single rest day. These programs will usually have a long run, tempo, interval run and various recovery runs to keep the runner running consistently and improving. The long run will build in volume through a period building up to a race preparation and the other runs will likely stay fairly static in both the style of the session and the day they are run on so it keeps the running consistent. Gradual improvement is likely to be seen and runner will ultimately likely do quite well at the race they have entered. There is also a likelihood that the runner can’t run all the runs programmed due to family, work, illness, injury or factors outside their control. In this case they will lose consistency with the program and either try and make up these missed sessions or believe they’ve had a negative impact on their training.

My philosophy to training has been built over experience, I have no qualification as a coach and don’t profess to be one. but I have run for a long time and seen what works well for me and what doesn’t. Sticking to a structured plan that involves running similar workouts on a very consistent basis doesn’t work for me. I believe that style of running training is boring and doesn’t allow the runner to rest when needed, do a completely different exercise if thats what they want to do or enjoy their running to their full potential.

My philosophy to training doesn’t completely abandon consistency however. I run my three key runs consistently, when training for a race every week unless I am sick or sore. I may change the day during the week if life gets in the way and stop me from doing whats planned however ultimately these runs are done consistently as they are the key to building speed, strength and endurance and this is needed to improve running. From here I believe in an anything that adds variety is acceptable whether running or choosing not to run should be enjoyed. If I choose to run on any of the other four days of the week they are run only at aerobic pace and many times I choose to not to run to keep my body rested and ready for the next key workout. If I choose to run I stay at an aerobic pace to allow recovery, recently I am enjoying some hikes in a weighted vest (about 6kg). These have added variety to my training and give me something different in my program. Being ready to run the key sessions is the key and running these sessions as planned is better than busting myself on the next run because the plan says consistency must be there.

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Training at the beach is another way to add variety

There is a quote from Clyde Hart – Coach of Michael Johnson. He once said ” Time has shown me that the aerobic benefits far outweigh the anaerobic benefits. You put money in the bank when you train. To me, anaerobic is withdrawing money from the bank and aerobic is putting it back in. If you go out and do a lot of anaerobic running you might as well be racing.” I find this a very true quote and that running should kept aerobic as often as possible. My program only allows me to train at an anaerobic pace to build strength and speed.

If a runner attempts a key session and the body isn’t recovered and ready the key session will be compromised and hinder improvement. Consistency isn’t the key, nailing the key sessions and enjoying running is the key.

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