Book Review: Running the World by Nick Butter (Andrew)

First, something that really annoyed me.

In 2017, ultrarunner Nick Butter began a challenge to run a marathon in every country in the world. 196 countries to be precise. Or 195 if you want to be really precise. Or 194. Or possibly 201. It all depends on who you ask as there are a number of countries that are heavilly disputed such as Macedonia or Palestine. But what annoyed me was that I didn’t know that there is one country which is also disputed and I had no idea it was not a country at all.

As Nick recounts each leg of his journey, starting first in the Americas and then flying to Africa, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific and finally finishing with countries such as Yemen and Syria where conflict makes travel almost impossible, I kept thinking: “When’s he getting to Greenland?”

And then he finishes in Athens with a final marathon back at the home of the marathon and I still think: “He’s missed a country. He’s not run the world at all! He didn’t go to Greenland!”

However it turns out that Greenland is not a country at all. It’s part of Denmark and Denmark, far from being one of the smallest countries in Europe, is actually one of the largest countries in the world because Denmark is Greenland and Greenland is Denmark.

So, sorry, Nick, I thought you’d cheated but it turned out that you had ran every country in the world, which at least saves you a plane ticket and a purchase of some thermal underwear to complete your challenge!

As for the book, while the challenge was for a good cause, he was raising money for the charity, Prostate Cancer UK, the format of the book becomes tiring. 196 countries and 196 marathons with most entries being:

“Arrive in country. Delay at customs. I wonder if I’ll get in? (He gets in). I wonder if my support will be here to collect me? (They collect him). Let’s run this marathon! (He runs marathon). I met some brilliant people, they were all great. Let’s go to the next country (he goes to the next country).”

The fact that Nick just about manages to make this format work is a testament to the uncynical and enthusiastic way he talks about the challenge. You get a real sense of what it meant to him to raise money and awareness of Prostrate Cancer and his optimistic outlook to try and find the good in every country he visited.

But 196 countries is a lot of countries… and by the end I was glad he didn’t have to go to Greenland as I’m not sure I could have handled another country.

You can buy the book here: Amazon

In Praise of… Massage Guns (Andrew)

In my bathroom there is a very expensive tube containing a lotion from a very expensive shop. Every time I see it, I snigger. It’s a hand creme by a company that really should know better given they charge the earth for something which is mostly just water but, clearly, they don’t, as they called this creme: “Hand Relief”.

I’m just glad it’s not run out as I don’t want to be asked by my wife to get some more when I’m in town and I have to pop into an expensive shop and ask the perfectly poised girl at the counter: “Can I get some hand relief?”

So, let’s all have a giggle and get that out of our system before I talk about massage guns – and this advert which either suggests a purpose similar to our lotion or a crime scene and the weapon used to kill her.

Either way, giggling over, let me say:

THIS GUN IS BRILLIANT!!!!!!

For the last three years I have gone for an annual physio check with a physiotherapist next to my office. She spends 45 minutes using her elbows and hands to mimic a sledgehammer to my back and she checks my posture and sets me up for the year. She is fantastic – https://glenberviephysio.com – and I’d recommend her once lockdown is over, however, with COVID outstaying it’s welcome like an unwanted party guest, it may be some time before I’ll see her again.

What’s worse, swimming helps stretch me out and helps fix wee niggle and pulls. But with the pools closed the pulls have started to become more common and I knew I was missing a massage to sort it out. So, I thought about getting a massage gun.

The only one I knew was the Theragun but it was far too expensive to take a chance on something I didn’t know would work – or even how it worked. At nearly £400 it would have been a big gamble. However, as I was checking reviews I found one which said that if you want a brand name then buy a Theragun but if you want another one that’s better, quieter and over £300 cheaper then buy a Sportneer – which was available for £70 on Amazon.

Now, £70 is worth a shot. Especially on Amazon when you can return it because…. err…. it didn’t work, honest, and if I’m telling a lie Mr Bezos then really, you can afford a little bit of fraud for being the richest man in the world and running an evil corporation that strangles small business and has a slave workforce but is so easy to use that we completely forgive it.

The Sportneer was easy to use. You just attach a had to a small pneumatic drill. You select a speed – from your mama’s ass whipping to kung fu fist of fury – and then hold it against which ever part of your body needs some relief. Wait, not relief, that’ll get us giggling again. Let’s say physio instead.

I tried it on my back and shoulders and over my clothes to keep this review PG friendly and I could feel instant relief from the tired and stiff points around my upper back and neck.

It was, and I say it again and make no apolgies for using capitals a second time, BRILLIANT!

After working on my back for 10 minutes and then swapping the head for another to work the neck I felt as good as a session with the physio. And while it can’t tell me if I’m still ‘balanced’ it did help work and ease the knots that had built up over the last few months.

This gun is BRILLIANT. As I’m sure are Theraguns but, if you want to spend £300 on something else instead then definitely check out the Sportneer massage gun.

Link: JEff Bezo’s Satanic Money Making Website

Film Friday – West Highland Way: Rab Wardell’s Record Attempt (Andrew)

“Bonnie” is a good Scottish word. Literally. It means “good”. So, if you asked me what the weather was like today and I said “bonnie” then you would know that the weather was good, which is good as the weather is rarely good in Scotland. And, if it is good, you might ask yourself why not just say “good”, why have “bonnie” at all?

I think we have “bonnie” because we needed a word which was both a description and an exclamation. It is so rarely “good” that when things are good we get a surprise. “Bonnie” suggests a surprise.

You: “What’s the weather like today?”

Me (standing in welly’s and waterproofs): “I’ll just check by looking outside. Blimey. It’s dry. It’s a bonnie day! I better look out those shorts I wore 10 years ago the last time the sun came out!”

So, when I describe this video as “bonnie” I mean it with maximum praise. This video shows Rob Wardell, a Scottish cyclist and coach, attempt to break the fastest known time to cycle the West Highland Way, the 95 mile trail from Fort William in the Highlands to the edge of Glasgow. Most people take five to seven days to walk the West Highland Way. Rob tried to cycle it in less than nine hours…

But don’t watch this for the cycling – though the attempt at the record is a good draw to watch – watch it for that attempt being on the bonniest of bonnie days Scotland has ever seen. Perfect weather, perfect conditions and fantastic drone footage of the West Highland Way from start to finish. By the end you won’t care if he makes it or not as you’ll just want to skip back and watch anther flyby of Loch Lomond, Tyndrum and the Devil’s Staircase.

You can watch it here:

Race The Past – The Glasgow Marathon (Andrew)

What do you do when you don’t have any races in the future? Run an old one instead!

The only races I have booked for this year are two races postponed from 2020: Celtman and the Caledonian Etape. With no guarantee either will take place and with no other races on the calendar I thought it would be fun to revisit some favourite races from previous years and run them myself. I’m also thinking that in a backwards year it would be fun to start at the finish and run them backwards too but I’m not sure my navigation skills are up for that. Whether forward or backward, the races would include:

  • Kirkintilloch 12.5k;
  • Glentress Trail Half Marathon;
  • Loch Leven Half Marathon;
  • The Balloch to Clydebank Half Marathon; and
  • The Forth Road Bridge 10k.

But then I had another thought – why stop at running races I’ve ran before? I would like to support the organisers and clubs by running the races and paying my entry fee. It doesn’t quite feel right to run these races without giving something back.

Instead, I’ve started to look at races which don’t exist anymore and where I wouldn’t need to show any support to anyone as there is no one to support. Brilliant, I thought, before I realised that if the races don’t exist anymore then how am I going to find them or the routes to follow? That’s where this website became invaluable: http://www.scottishdistancerunninghistory.scot

Scottish Distancing Running History provides a great guide to old Scottish races and the runners who took part. From that I was able to find such races as the Princes Street Mile, the Glasgow to Edinburgh Relay and Scotland’s first mass participation marathon: the Inverclyde Marathon.

And from that I had an idea: as part of training for Celtman I should aim to run a marathon in April but as there are no marathons and we may still be in lockdown then why not run the old Glasgow marathon route, a race which was always ran at the end of March?

Glasgow Running Routes has plotted the marathon route

Between 1979 and 1988 the Glasgow Marathon was one of the biggest marathons in Scotland. It’s legacy continues today in the Great Scottish Run, which has started and finished in the same spots – George Square and Glasgow Green – and followed much of the second half of the race. It would be great to recreate it – though I’ll refrain from wearing a singlet, tiny shorts and sweatbands like every 80s runner.

Training For Celtman – January 2021 (Andrew)

COVIDBikeRun

Well, that didn’t turn out as planned…

Normally I’d post a snapshot of my monthly training but that would be pointless this month as I did almost no training at all. At first, it was for a very good reason. My daughter, Rebecca, was born on Wednesday 6th January. All very exciting and, because I knew it was coming – the whole nine months pregnancy does give you a few warning signs that an infant is on the way! – I knew I would need to adapt to training around her this month.

Not that training was the only thing to change. After a week at home Mrs TwinBikeRun turned to our daughter and said: Rebecca, is Daddy’s beard scratchy?”

I’d not shaved in over a week. It was still too soon to call my middle age bumfluff a beard but it had ambitions.

“Are you telling me to shave it?” I asked her.

“I’m not saying anything,”she said “but Rebecca would prefer it.”

Damn. It was only a week and Mrs TwinBikeRun had tried to ‘turn the wean against us’!

So, in that first week I didn’t do any training, or shaving, and just tried to help out with getting Baby TwinBikeRun into a routine. Once we knew the times she was likely to sleep through the day in the second week I started to either go for a run or jump on the bike for 90 minutes.

This is easy, I thought. We can feed her, change her, play with her and then have some time for Celtman.

And then we all got COVID.

Not that we knew we had COVID. My wife felt tired one day, I had a sniffle another day and then my daughter got tested as part of a routine check and she tested positive, which meant that we’d all had it because she hadn’t met anyone else.

While we’ve been lucky compared to others who have had it, it has meant that we had to self-isolate for 10 days from the point the last one of us had symptoms.

Which meant for most of the month I wasn’t able to do anything because, if I was self-isolating, then I wasn’t doing any exercise in order to get healthy after having COVID, even though I didn’t know I’d had it until after I’d had it.

However, everyone is well and beyond the boredom and frustration that comes from staying in one place, I can’t complain about not starting Celtman training this month, not compared to the alternatives. Instead, I look forward to starting in February.

Update from Celtman

With the uncertainty caused by COVID as to whether Celtman will be possible in June it was good to get the following update this week. It’s good to see that a decision as to whether it may go ahead will be made in March so that everyone can prepare. I suspect we’ll see a race in June but it will only be open to UK based entrants.

Rugged Run – Stirling – Loch Ardinning

Two of my favorite places to walk are Loch Ardinning and Lennox Forest. You can see the loch from the forest and you can see the forest from the loch but there is no path that connects them together. On a map it seemed possible. There is only half a mile between the two paths.

I thought about doing it during the summer but I thought it might be too boggy. I decided to wait until winter and do it on a frosty day when all the vegetation had died back.

So during a recent cold spell of weather I set off with my wife to try and find a way across the gap.

It was surprisingly easy. The conditions were perfect and it only took 30 minutes of off path walking. I’d recommend doing it with a good map as due to the trees it was tricky to find the path at Lennox forest. I used https://maps.me/ as an app on my phone. It has downloadable maps so I don’t have to worry about a signal. It is also completely free.

Check out just how cold the walk was in the video below.

VIDEO

MAPS

Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

An interesting challenge to connect up two routes but no one I’d do often.

Parking

Rating: 3 out of 5.

There’s a small car park in Clachan of Campise. You can park on the street if the car park is full. It can be busy on a nice day. Loch Ardinning has a few parking spots but they fill up quickly on a nice day.

Facilities

Rating: 1 out of 5.

None on the route

Nearest cafe

Rating: 3 out of 5.

There is a cafe at Clachan of Campsie.

Run Surface

50% track. 25% off road track, 25% off road (no path, mud, heather etc)

Dog Friendly

Yes

Elevation

129M of elevation.

Snow Running (Andrew)

I’ve ran in all the traditional Scottish conditions – rain, sleet, shower, downpour, drizzle and, once, many years ago, even a dry day. But although I’m quite happy to run when wet as, once you’re wet, you can’t get wetter. After five minutes you’re as wet as you’ll ever be so you might as well continue. However, I don’t run when water turns to ice. If there’s a chance of slipping then I give a run a miss and do something more warm instead, like sitting in front of a fire while wearing a scarf, a down jacket and wrapped in an electric blanket. Toasty.

Last month though I had the chance to try something I’ve never tried before – a run in fresh snow, with no ice. We’d planned on running the Campsie and thought there might have been a nice dandruffing of snow on top but as soon as we started to climb the snow became deeper and thicker until it was up to our ankles. Then over our ankles and down my socks as the snow melted around my feet. Baltic.

It was fantastic to run in such conditions and I thought it worth sharing some tips in case you ever get the chance to do the same.

Tip 1 – Don’t do it.

Just like wild swimming, you should never run alone. If you trip, twist an ankle or run into trouble then you could be a couple of very, very cold miles away from help. Running through ankle deep snow is hard, hopping through it on one leg would be even harder still. That’s why pirates stuck to the Caribbean and you don’t see Alpine climbers with peg legs.

Tip 2 – If you’re going to go sledging, test your sledge first

At the top of Meikle Bin we met four three guys from Kilsyth who’d hiked up with sledges and were aiming to slide all the way back down the Campsie.

“WHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

Went the first guy as he pushed off from the top and shot down the southern slope.

“WHEEE – DAMN!”

Went the second and third guy as they shared a sledge for 10 metres before it snapped in half because a child’s sledge is not designed for two grown men to bobsleigh together. Went it snapped, they looked like someone had just told them that Santa Claus was not real. They were not happy.

Tip 3 – Gaiters are your toes best friend

Speaking of Santa. Did you know that Santa is the only lie that that the news will repeat and will never challenge? Every year the news will pretend Santa is real, which must be why Huw Edwards always gets great presents. He’s top of Santa’s nice list.

If I had a chance to get a present for running in snow I would definitely choose gaiters. As mentioned above, the snow will quickly rise above your shoe and the space between the tongue of your shoe and your ankle will build up with snow until it looks like your playing keepy-up with snowballs. Then it will melt and you have frozen water running down you foot and refrigerating your socks. Gaiters will stop that. Or…

Tip 4 – Just accept you’re feet are going to get wet

Because gaiters are not going to help when you put a foot down and find the snow was covering a path or a patch of heather but rather it was a trap and underneath the snow is a deep muddy bog. While most bogs will be frozen, some will crack as soon as you stand on them and your foot is going to be ankle deep in slush mud. Ugh.

Tip 5 – it’s fun!

Accept you will not go anywhere fast. You will not beat any personal best or challenge for any world records. Running in snow is sluggish and challenging as you stamp down to punch through the snow and find the earth beneath. But, on the right day, with pure snow, a blue sky and no wind then you will have fun.

Tip 6 – dress correctly

But remember to wear the right clothes – I wore three layers (long sleeved t-shirt, short sleeved t-shirt, thick running jacket, a running skull cap, waterproof trail trainers and a pair of gloves).

Oh, and bring a pair of scissors if you want to get your trainers off at the end as your laces will freeze and you’ll never untie them until they melt….

East Coast 100 (Iain)

I’d like to do a multi day run this year but I don’t fancy doing the standard routes everyone else does ie the West Highland Way. So instead I’ve created my own route – The East Coast 100. A coastal route from North Berwick to St Andrews. 100 miles of sand, sea and sightseeing.

The route takes in some of my favorite parts of the east coast – the beaches of east lothian, the edinburgh bridges and St Andrews fudge donuts

Delicious!

I hope to do it during the Easter break but I’ll have to wait and see whether covid restrictions ease.

I’ll plan it and then see what happens. Now to decided how far to run each day….

Please no photos (Andrew)

I’ve started the year by looking like Batman in this month’s issue of 220 Triathlon, which is called February even though it’s out on January and I read it on the Readly magazine app in December. Hopefully they have the dates of the events they feature correct as otherwise everyone will be turning up two months early.

It’s nice to be featured even if all you can see is my Batman ears and my nose. But even if you can’t see that much of me – it’s still better than being caught in the shower like number 3. Yikes!

2020 Review (Andrew)

You can review stats and try and work out patterns to improve your training. How far did you run. how fast did you swim? Was it faster or further than a month ago?

If you want you can dig down further and check power and heart rate. You can consider zones of training and recovery time and whole host of metrics designed to make even a simple jog round the blog into a carefully monitored scientific experiment.

“Are you off for a jog, dear?”

“No, I’m heading out for a zone 5 steady state session with five times maximum power intervals followed by a CT scan and X-ray!”

Or you can take a more simple view, like I’ve done and ask one simple question: did I beat Iain? And, yes. Yes, I did. You can see his lesser stats here.