Every Picture Tells a Story

sweaty gym kit
sweaty gym kit

This picture shows my gear from my treadmill session at the gym tonight.

Nothing too unusual in anything in the picture. But there are a few stories to be told. Lets start at the bottom:

The Shoes

Brooks Racer ST5.  I wore these shoes as I walked to work this morning. Probably one of the few people to walk down the road in a suit and a pair of racing flats. There has to be a reason of course beyond sheer eccentricity and mine was straightforward. I had to walk to work because Helen needed the car. We live too far from work to walk in shiny work shoes and not far enough away to make it worthwhile running, not that I could have run this morning because the DOMS in my groin (don’t ask) were nipping. I had a treadmill session planned for after work so needed my gear and rather than carry yet another pair of shoes with me it just seemed easier to wear them. I did discover however that the venting in the shoes upper makes for chilly toes on a cold morning! If you are interested the ST5 is a great lightweight shoe, I refer to it as flats for fats because it is supportive enough that less svelt runners like myself can wear them right up to marathon distance. I still think they were faster in the previous colour scheme of blue and orange!

The Shorts

Sugoi 42K. Most marathon shorts are rubbish. I cant understand why manufacturers can’t come up with a split short which has a big zip pocket and some mesh pockets for gels. Most brands have a variation which has some but not all of these features.  The other problem with marathon shorts os that by the time you put a few gels in the pockets you have to pull  the string really tight to stop them falling down when you run. This in turn means that I end up with the skin on my back rubbed away and  bleeding from the elastic on the waistband rubbing.  One more place to have to remeber to apply vaseline. Sugoi gear is really good and the previous version of the sugoi shorts had big mesh pockets but for some bizarre reason they removed them and replaced them with silly flaps on the bum which have velcro fastenings so flimsy that if you put anything into them the fastening comes apart.  I guess at some point I shall have to try out a pair of Race Ready shorts now they are more readily available in this country.

The Towel

A piece of merchandising from the Swiss Alpine Marathon in Davos. This is one of those bucket list races. Scenery to die for, running over the Swiss Alps, you get glaciers, helicopters, alp horns, cow bells, chocolate and red mountain trains. It is also my slowest ever marathon. The altitude absolutely killed me and even though I felt I was running flat out, I was actually running in slow motion.

The Shirt

The shirt sums up this running lark for me. It is from the Little Rock marathon in Arkansas. Little Rock is renowned for the size of its massive marathon medal and for the fact it is the home of Bill Clinton. I haven’t run Little Rock, but was given the t-shirt by a lovely lady called Hobbit (yes Hobbit) at the expo for the marathon in Niagara Falls, Canada. She was there promoting the race and we got chatting, learned she was wanting to come to Scotland to run Loch Ness, exchanged contact details, and she kindly gave us a shirt. We were in Niagara Falls to run the marathon there only 7 days after running the Toronto waterfront marathon. We ran Toronto again this year because it was our first overseas race in 2006 and from running there, we met some wonderful people with whom we are now great friends, and every time we run another race there are more introductions and our circle of friends grows and grows.

So there you go. A routine picture which hides a tale or two.

Brooks Pure Grit

Pure Grit are part of Brooks Pure Project range.

These are probably the most comfortable running shoes I have ever had. If they matched my suit I would wear them to work.

Brooks Pure Grit
Brooks Pure Grit

There is something very natural about the way the front of the shoe is shaped. The Toe box feels wide and low, and your feet seem to splay very naturally. For me, when you put your feet in them it is the same feeling as putting your feet into your slippers. The heel is low, soft, and just fits, holding your foot without feeling stiff or aggravating your achilles.

I have been looking for a good trail shoe for some time vith a view to running long distances on trails. I have tried various options. I got a pair of Salomon X trails but they had so much cushioning and support they felt like I was running on stilts and I always felt my ankles were at risk from falling sideways off them.  I also did a season training in Brooks Adrenaline ASR shoes which were ok, they were like Adrenalines with a trail sole. They werent great for technical stuff, got a bit soggy, and were a bit slow, solid and clumpy for my liking but were ok.  I like Inov-8s. I ran the 53 miles of the Highland Fling in Inov-8 Terrocs, which worked suprisingly well even though I only wore them by accident, when I discovered on the morning of the race that the shoes I had neatly packed into a shoe bag were at home in Alloa and not in Milngavie where I needed them. Much as I love them for hills and bog, I have never been confident in my Inov-8s for long distances, even though I have a pair of roclite 365’s which are billed as being suitable for ultras. I did get a very good tip from Katie in Achilles Heel. She suggested putting a pair of cushioned insoles in my Inov-8s and that made a huge difference to how wearable they were over long distances.

WHWjan12 011Back to the Brooks. They are a snazzy colour which always makes you go faster. The tongue is thin and soft which gives a nice fit without all the volume you sometimes get. The upper has a slightly hard synthetic mesh which does a good job at keeping rubble out and is pretty robust. The shoes do a fantastic job of shedding water unlike any other pair I have owned. If you run through a deep puddle, the water just seems to skoosh right back out the shoe. Yes your feet get wet, but they don’t stay soaked. The other strange thing is that despite getting wet, your feet warm up again. I have tested this several times running through icy puddles in the Ochils!

WHWjan12 010If there is a drawback to these shoes, it is the grip. The sole has a peculiar grip pattern and is made from a soft rubber compound which doesnt feel desperately robust.  They are grippy on dry trail, and are very good on dry gravel and loose stones.  In the wet they are pretty lethal on stone, wood or grass and don’t grip well at all on slick surfaces. The first time I wore them, I took them on a tour of Menstrie Glen and running down a soaked, grassy hillside in pouring rain I went on my bum spectacularly several times.

Brooks Pure GritI have now run about 150 miles in mine, in bad conditions and they still make me smile when I put them on. They have been through mud, trail, rocks, water, forest and apart from making me nervous on slick surfaces have been great.  They also perform pretty well on the road and don’t have that feeling of running on studs that you get wearing trail shoes on the road.

A better sole has been promised for the Pure Grit 2 which is out any time now so I am looking forward to getting my hands on a pair. Finally I should say thanks to Gavin at Sweatshop Glasgow who went to great lengths to source these shoes as they are not readily available in running stores.

At the moment, these are likely to be my shoe of choice for the West Highland Way, especially if the Grit 2 version delivers the promised grippier sole. Enough of a trail shoe to cope with the terrain but really comfortable to wear for many hours. If it is pouring with rain I might just change into my Inov-8s for the trip over Conic Hill though as I would prefer to limit the amount of time I spend horizontal on the way down to Balmaha.