Category Archives: Runs

Discussion of a training session I have completed

Training Run: First Run with the Dandenong Trail Runners

Since returning to Australia last May I have conducted almost all of my training as solo runs. That has included weeks where every training run has lasted at least 2 hours. It provided plenty of time in my own headspace but had become challenging to stay motivated at times. Having run with a great training group for a couple of years while living in South Africa I have missed the camaraderie (and peer group pressure) that training partners can provide.

Therefore I have started looking for some people to run with in earnest. Last weekend I went out for my first run with the Dandenong Trail Runners, a group of runners who organise regular informal runs in the hilly Dandenong Ranges National Park. Since I generally run in the park at least once a week, and sometimes as often as three times a week, it seemed like a great fit.

A week after my race at Two Bays I joined the group for a “flattish” 20ish km run. A group of 19 people met up in the carpark at the Basin Theatre, and we all set out together. The group would separate on the climbs and then regroup at junctions along the course. A number of people were locals to the area, but there were also others like me who had travelled quite a distance (over 30 km in my case) to be there. At the highest point on the route we stopped for a group photo, which apparently involves a jump that I still need to master. I am easily spotted thanks to the very bright green shirt I was wearing.

DTR - Late on the jump
DTR – Late on the jump
DTR - Jump but no hands
DTR – Jump but no hands

Continue reading Training Run: First Run with the Dandenong Trail Runners


Iten: Week 4

For my fourth and final week in Iten I would start to drop my mileage in preparation for my race at the Paris Marathon, but would include three quality sessions. I had included three consecutive days of double sessions the previous week but returned to running single sessions.

After an easy Monday run I headed to the track on Tuesday. I would run 15 x 1000 metres at marathon pace with a 200 metre recovery. I managed to get into a good rhythm, and after checking my split at the 400 metre mark of each interval managed to run confidently at the required pace. The intervals started to feel more strained towards the end but for the final 1000 metres I still managed to increase the pace to complete the interval 14 seconds faster than marathon pace. It was another great confidence-boosting run.

Iten - Workout at Kamarini Stadium
Iten – Workout at Kamarini Stadium (photo courtesy of Jordan van IJsseldijk)

I had planned to run on Wednesday morning but was feeling quite stiff. Therefore I decided to shift my run to the afternoon, but getting caught up on some travel planning I only headed out late in the evening with limited light remaining. However I knew that the decision to delay the run was the correct one from the first step. My legs felt great and I enjoyed a wonderful 18 km, running through the failing light and arriving back after the sun had dropped below the horizon.

My last track session took take place on Thursday morning with a 16 x 400 metre workout. I had planned four sets of four laps, increasing the pace with each set, but my pacing was a disaster from the first lap. In a case of total mental failure I ran the first lap too fast while thinking that it had been too slow. It was only halfway through the second lap that I realised I was running the wrong pace. Consciously slowing down for the third lap I slowed too much. From there I ran almost every lap either too fast or too slow, finding myself unable to hit my intended pacing. But it was still a tough workout, and therefore a valuable one.

Continue reading Iten: Week 4

Iten: Week 3

My normal training week involves six days of running and a day of rest. After two weeks in Iten I had run for fourteen straight days. With a life focussed around training, but with an important focus on eating and recovery I didn’t feel the need for my usual weekly day off. But I decided to start my third week with my only rest day for the four weeks I would spend in Iten.

On Tuesday I headed down to the track to run a pyramid session, running intervals of 400, 600, 800, 1000 and 1200 metres, before working back down the pyramid to 400 metres. The recovery periods between each interval was just over half the length of the preceding interval. I had set target times that would be challenging, and they turned out to be slightly too challenging, but I enjoyed a good session where I managed to get close on all of the splits.

Most Kenyan runners head out 2-3 times a day to run. After using double sessions in the first half of 2012 when starting to seriously build my mileage I had returned to longer single run sessions after a few months due to the time taken to fit in two runs around a working day. But with no work to get in the way I included three double sessions in a row. The plan was to run an easy shake-out run each afternoon after a hard morning session.

Continue reading Iten: Week 3

Iten: Week 1

I arrived in Iten having spent the previous two weeks travelling in Ethiopia, predominantly above an elevation of 2,000 metres. Therefore I was already quite well acclimatised to the 2,400 metre elevation of Iten, and could get straight into some good training.

I arrived on a Monday morning, settled in to my room and drank some chai. I had my first High Altitude Training Centre (HATC) lunch, checked out a map of the local roads, and plotted a 16 km route. Then I set out for my first run at a relaxed and easy pace.

Iten - Running Map
Iten – Running Map

Tuesday morning in Iten is track day, with many of the local runners heading down to the old dirt track to swarm around in large groups at phenomenal speeds. I wasn’t planning on hitting the track for speed work on day 2 in Iten, but I did jog down to check out the action. From there I set out for my own easy run.

Continue reading Iten: Week 1

Training Runs: The Roads of Ethiopia

A white person running on the roads of Ethiopia attracts a lot of attention. After leaving Addis Ababa (only completing a treadmill run there), where foreigners are a lot more common, it was only once I arrived in the smaller cities and towns that I started venturing onto the roads to cover some mileage.

It was great altitude training with the lowest of my runs taking place more than 2000 metres above sea level, and my highest reaching up over 2800 metres. Even at the altitudes at which I was running I felt comfortable running the training paces I would normally run at sea level. It was a great confidence boost that months of touring, with runs squeezed in amongst my travels had not affected my fitness too much.

The roads of Ethiopia were very quiet in terms of motorised traffic once I left Addis Ababa behind. I would encounter many more donkeys and mules along the roads than I would cars and trucks, and people were constantly heading to and from the cities and towns. With the minimal traffic I stuck to major roads, most of them very well constructed so that I could enjoy the run and focus on my surrounds.

Ethiopia - A Road Near Yeha
Ethiopia – A Road Near Yeha

Continue reading Training Runs: The Roads of Ethiopia

Training Run: A Treadmill in Addis

I travelled to Ethiopia for 13 days of touring around the north of the country. My purpose for visiting was to see historic sights but it would also give me a good opportunity to get in some training at altitude before my upcoming running-focussed trip to Kenya.

After spending my first day sightseeing in Addis Ababa I realised that a road run in the late afternoon would involve many frustrating road crossings and a lot of traffic, both motorised and pedestrian. Staying at a hotel with a gym I made the decision to run on the treadmill instead. I am not exactly sure when my last treadmill run took place, but I think it must have been at least a couple of years ago. I set the treadmill to a 1% gradient and set off.

Continue reading Training Run: A Treadmill in Addis

Training Runs: Table Mountain Once More … or Twice

I ran up Table Mountain for the first time just a few months ago back in September, following the very popular Platteklip Gorge to the top of the mountain.

Finding myself back in Cape Town again I was provided with the opportunity to climb Table Mountain once more … or maybe even twice more.

Table Mountain - Cape Town From the Top
Table Mountain – Cape Town From the Top

Staying in the suburb of Observatory, on the east side of the mountain, I took off on the first morning from Cecilia Forest and climbed from there to traverse above the Kirstenbosch Gardens. I climbed up another popular route, Skeleton Gorge, and then continued to climb to the highest point on the mountain, Maclear’s Beacon. For my return journey I made my way to Nursery Ravine, and descended from there before returning to my car.

Continue reading Training Runs: Table Mountain Once More … or Twice

Training Runs: Central Drakensberg

The Drakensberg Mountains form the border between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, with peaks rising over 3000 metres above sea level. The mountain range is separated into north, central and south regions. I had previously visited the north on a number of occasions to relax, to hike and to run. But I had never been to the central or south regions.

Looking for somewhere new to run some trails I made by way to the Central Drakensberg region. I planned out two days of running, with the route for day one suggested by an American staying at the same accommodation and the route for day two suggested by the owner.

When I met up with the same American for dinner and drinks in Cape Town a few days later he started by apologising for not considering the difference between his hiking of the trail and my running of it. The run took my around the area of Cathedral Peak, climbing up an escarpment before taking a path that followed the contour of the land. Unfortunately the weather was quite grey and overcast, but the surrounds were spectacular. But the biggest problem was the sharp grass and thorny bushes that crowded the trail. For a hiker in pants they did not present too much of a problem, but for a runner in shorts I returned back to the base with extremely scratched shins from a few hours of gradual cutting and scratching.

Cathedral Peak - The Trail Down
Cathedral Peak – The Trail Down

My second run took me around the Monk’s Cowl area. I was greeted with perfect blue skies, and once again ran up to the escarpment before following the contour while taking in the stunning scenery. The early running paths were in great condition, and when they started to become overgrown and more difficult to follow I decided to turn around for the return journey.

Continue reading Training Runs: Central Drakensberg

Training Run: Luxembourg, France & 4 x 2000 m

I actually ran the below session in early November, and wrote this post in its entirety the same week but never got around to posting it. But this blog will start to see renewed attention as I work towards my running goals for 2014.

What do two different countries have to do with a speed workout, and a fairly uncommon speed workout at that?

First, let me mention that I had not completed a formal speed session in my running since the first half of 2011. I can’t honestly claim to remember that specific session, but my running log confirms that it was hill repeats performed on the street outside my housing estate in Johannesburg, and I remember those hill sessions very well. I would run a 500 metre section of the hill, generally 8 or 10 times, and the session would always really hurt.

Since then I have run a lot. I have run fast and I have run slow. My pacing has sometimes been indicative of a fartlek session and sometimes akin to a tempo session. But at no point since that last speed session have I planned and executed a session with any intent or purpose.

When I realised that some errands I need to complete on my third day in Paris would not allow me to complete a morning run, it meant that I would be running in the dark. Therefore I decided the safest option would be to find a loop with no streets to cross. The solution was the Jardin de Luxembourg, which I measured using to be around 1500 metres. I never put together routes for my easy runs that involve multiple loops, so I decided that if I was going to complete loops I might as well run them fast.

I planned out my session to run the approximately 3 km from my accommodation to the gardens, complete four loops of 1500 metres with a recovery period in between each. I made it to the gardens without incident, took off on my first loop but it seemed to take forever. I worried that I had already completed the loop without noticing, but when I finally completed loop one I looked at my watch to realise that it was actually a 2000 metre loop.

I ran a 2-minute recovery and took off for lap two. I ran each loop just faster than my marathon pace so it wasn’t a flat out 2000 metres, but it really did feel good to run fast. I decided to maintain my original plan of four loops despite the additional distance of each. Upon completion of my final loop I made my way home following a slightly different route.

With my target now focussed on a fast marathon I will start to include some formal speed sessions. I did enjoy running fast but I do not look forward to my first flat out, red line session, where you attempt to avoid throwing up since it will impair the attempts of your body to suck in  enough oxygen to sustain life. However I know that those type of sessions are something I have to look forward to.

Why would anyone not want to be a runner?

Paris Marathon

Training Runs: Paris Marathon Course

My last race was on September 22nd. My next race will not be until April 6th next year. I have signed up to run the Paris Marathon, targeting a fast marathon before building up my distance for a crack at a good run in a 100-mile race during the northern summer.

Therefore when I found some cheap flights from Africa to Paris I realised that it would give me a great opportunity to check out the marathon course. I decided that I would run the entire distance of the course over two days.

Paris Marathon - Course Map
Paris Marathon – Course Map

For my first day I travelled out to the Arc de Triomphe since the race starts very close by on the Champs Elysee. Compared to the narrow start of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, it was amazing to consider the eight or so lanes of traffic that runners will fill for the start in Paris.

Continue reading Training Runs: Paris Marathon Course