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How was your weekend running?

Feb 2nd, 2017 by

Those of us on the marathon training cycle are starting to ramp up the distance on the long runs. Do you treat it as a battle or a practice? As always, come and share your weekend triumphs and woes below the line

I was thinking yesterday about language. Or rather terminology. If you hang out too much on social media, you’d be forgiven for thinking that no one ever just ‘does’ a long run. They smash it. They wallop it. They annihilate it. They downright get violent with it. But you know what they – we – are all actually doing? We’re being good boys and girls, and doing our homework: we’re practising.

It’s not exactly a social media friendly buzzword, recalling as it does tortuous attempts to master piano basics or your times tables. But really, that is basically what you are doing. Long runs – at least when you are half or full marathon training – are as much about practising fighting the voices in the head as they are increasing the endurance in the legs and lungs. You know you can run faster, so you practice running longer. You practice the bits when your head says give up, before you point out to it that actually your legs feel ok. You practice your mantras to block out those voices (for some reason, yesterday, my usual Steve Way-inspired ‘Don’t be shit’ was replaced by Dory’s ‘Just keep swimming’)

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Picture of the day: Britain’s most brutal race

Feb 2nd, 2017 by

The Montane Spine Race is a 268 mile non-stop challenge encompassing the entire Pennine Way. The 2017 race concluded for the frontrunners yesterday with victory for Tom Hollins from Britain. The cut off for runners is 168hrs – Hollins won in 99 hours and change – and was asleep minutes later. Carol Morgan was the first woman, annihilating the course record by a jaw-dropping 43 hours to finish in 109 hrs. Others are still out on the course – the cut off falls on Sunday at 8.35am.

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Can Nike’s two-hour marathon quest learn from Roger Bannister?

Feb 2nd, 2017 by

The first four-minute mile man was a runner-scientist, who made changes to the track and his shoes to achieve the feat. But the various two-hour marathon projects are doing their research in the lab and applying it to runners

When Ed Caesar, author of Two Hours, The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon, wrote in Wired magazine that Nike’s new project to crack the time will be “the most significant moment for running since Roger Bannister’s first sub-four-minute mile in 1954”, my initial reaction was that it could not match the romance of Bannister’s record. Imagine if the biggest sportswear firm in the 1940s had created a downhill mile race won in 3:59. That celebrated image of Bannister falling exhausted and Christ-like into the arms of onlookers would surely not have the fame it does today.

Related: The two-hour marathon: who is it for?

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The long war of mini-Holland in Enfield

Feb 2nd, 2017 by

Disputes about the installation of cycle lanes on main roads through a north London suburb continue to rage

The best way to understand a vast metropolis is to explore it on foot, which is why I walked three southbound miles along the gently curving A105 from Enfield Town to Palmers Green during the morning travel peak. It is one of a matrix of main roads linking a constellation of small town centres in this part of suburban north London. Its route passes a weave of residential streets, the “set back” frontages of large interwar homes and intermittent parades of shops. There is a flow of motor vehicles, sometimes smooth, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. The carriageway is broad. It is also a bit of a battleground.

The root of the hostilities can be traced to March 2014, when Labour-run Enfield Council secured around £30m from Transport for London (TfL) to make the borough more conducive to cycling. Its bid for a big piece of Boris Johnson’s “mini-Holland” fund, created to encourage bicycle travel in Outer London, was distinctive for its emphasis on installing dedicated bike lanes on those very Enfield roads currently dominated by cars. The council’s plans, augmented with further funds, aren’t all about these segregated tracks – there will also be investment in quieter cycling routes. But, as Councillor Daniel Anderson, cabinet member for environment, puts it: “We don’t want to push cyclists down side streets. We need cycling to become a genuine direct alternative for making trips across the borough.”

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How was your weekend running?

Feb 2nd, 2017 by

Cross country, puddle-dodging or wading through snow – what did the weekend hold for you? As always come and share your weekend woes and triumphant PBs below the line

Another weekend, another outing to Croydon. This time the Surrey League XC for me – and another two laps of the muddy, err, delight that is Lloyd Park. Having been dreading it all week, and mentally making molehills into mountains, I was actually pleasantly surprised. The hills weren’t nearly as hilly as last week, the mud wasn’t really any muddier despite a week of rain and snow. Amazing how the mind can trick you – or perhaps, rather, I really must have been feeling under the weather last week. Saturday’s finish even bought a bit of a snow flurry, which perversely seems entirely right for a cross country race.

My new year’s resolution to do more strength and conditioning is also going well, thanks mostly to the TRX device in our attic. Many gyms now have them and I highly recommend if you have the opportunity to give it a go. For something that looks pretty innocuous, they really do give a full body workout, as my rather feeble shoulders and arms often tell me the next day. I need, though, to fetch the kettlebells in from the soggy garden to do some more weight-based work. So lets give the resolution a B-plus for now.

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Running on snow: the gear, the technique, the slipping over

Feb 2nd, 2017 by

Going off-piste in a ski resort ends in a stern lesson not to underestimate the environment – and that’s after seeking expert advice

If you live in a snowy part of the world, you probably already have a solution for running in the stuff. But for those of us who live in regions such as the south of England, where snow flurries are rare, it can be a little intimidating when we do find ourselves faced with a trundle across the lovely white blanket. Will I slip and fall? Will it be too hard, like running on sand? Should I just take the day off? Or the week off (depending on where you live)? Or stick to the gritted roads?

Some of you may be already filing this under #firstworldproblems, especially if I admit that I personally encountered this dilemma while on a skiing holiday in Katschberg, Austria. The lovely Falkensteiner resort where I stayed had a running machine in the gym, sure, but wouldn’t it be more fun and exciting to get out into the mountains. Did the snow really need to stop me?

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Study dispels myth of links between poverty and weight

Feb 2nd, 2017 by

Unemployed more likely than those in work to be very thin, says report

Call it the “Benefits Street effect” – the popularity of widely held preconceptions about unemployed people. And one of the most prevalent is that jobless people are more likely to be overweight than those in work.

While television documentaries and newspapers can help perpetuate this belief, academic studies also reinforce it. A series of studies have suggested that employers are biased against larger candidates when hiring staff. As a result, slimmer people tend to be employed first, leaving the overweight in the pool of the unemployed for longer.

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London FGM clinic to close after funding cut

Feb 2nd, 2017 by

Since opening in 2007, Acton clinic has seen more than 1,000 women and houses experts in the field of female genital mutilation

A London clinic for women who have undergone female genital mutilation is being forced to close after the local council withdrew funding from March 2017.

The Acton African Well Woman Centre was awarded the Guardian sponsored Diversity and equality award in 2011 and houses experts in the field of FGM who are able to help women who have been through the trauma of the procedure.

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Weekend workouts can benefit health as much as regular exercise, say researchers

Feb 2nd, 2017 by

Risk of early death is as low for those who meet recommended activity targets in one or two sessions a week as it is for daily exercisers, study shows

People who cram all their exercise into one or two sessions at the weekend benefit nearly as much as those who work out more frequently, researchers say.

A study of more than 60,000 adults in England and Scotland found that “weekend warriors” lowered their risk of death by a similar margin to those who spread the same amount of exercise over the whole week.

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Pope Francis encourages mothers to breastfeed in Sistine Chapel

Feb 2nd, 2017 by

Pontiff tells women to ‘breastfeed without fear’ at annual ceremony where 28 children were baptised

Pope Francis has encouraged women attending a ceremony in the Sistine Chapel to feel free to breastfeed their children in the church.

“The ceremony is a little long, someone’s crying because he’s hungry. That’s the way it is,” the pontiff said.

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