Jürg Widmer Probst - Fitness trainer technology

Can trainer technology help you run quicker?

Nike’s recent Breaking2 project was a remarkable effort that has had a few important consequences. Of course, there is the idea of an attempt at running a sub-2hr marathon, which is something truly unbelievable, and significant achievement in itself.

But the attempt (not surprisingly) was also a massive marketing coup for Nike. Although Eliud Kipchoge and two other runners didn’t quite break the two hour mark in the end, the project was a triumph in terms of promoting some pretty spectacular-sounding shoe technology.

From super springy carbon fibre plates to tech that’s alleged to make you run 4 per cent faster, there are some big claims out there. So what do we think?

The tech does seem to make a difference…

Nike aren’t the only company to make big claims about their shoe technology, of course, but they have one of the best marketing machines out there. And the fact that they have the greatest marathon runner of all time – Eliud Kipchoge – on their books certainly gives them a lot of kudos. So does the tech make a difference? In our opinion, we’d say it does.

The Zoom Vaporfly 4% Flyknit shoes Kipchoge wore for Breaking2 are hard to come by. But having tried out the more affordable Zoom Fly Flyknit shoes (which incorporate a lot of the same technology), we’re certainly impressed. They’re super light, and that carbon fibre plate in the sole gives a noticeable energy return as your foot flexes away from the ground. On our first run out with them we shaved off a couple of minutes from our usual 5k time.

… but you’re only as good as the training you put in.

Which is great – and compared to the kind of trainers that were available five, ten, fifteen years ago, a shoe like the Zoom Fly is an impressive piece of kit. But ultimately, that is all it is. If you have poor running form, or you’re just not fit enough, these shoes (or indeed any shoe) is unlikely to make a significant difference.

In our experience, the best way to improve your running speed by 4 per cent is not to spend £200 on a new pair of running shoes. The best way to become a better runner is simply to run more. Sure, new shoes can help you to run more efficiently, and maybe even for a little longer, but ultimately you need to put the hard miles in, out on the road.

That’s not so say you shouldn’t treat yourself from time to time, of course…

Our top five running shoes for road running

It is one of the great pleasures of running: having an excuse to go out and buy a new pair of running shoes. You’ve put the hard miles in out on the road, and your old pair are showing their age – so, here is our guide to the five best shoes that money can buy.

Go on, you’ve earned them!

1. Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit

If money is no object, then there really is only one choice for us. The Vaporfly is prohibitively expensive, of course, but then there is an incredible amount of technology and testing crammed into it.

The upper hugs your feet almost like a pair of light, breathable socks, but with more than enough support too. There’s a carbon fibre strip embedded in the ZoomX foam sole for support as well.

You’ll feel a remarkable amount of energy bouncing back out on the road from that sole – but then this really is a true racer’s shoe. If it’s good enough for 2 hour marathon man Eliud Kipchoge then it’s good enough for us.

2. Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo

Another Nike, but one that is slightly more within reach for the average runner. If you can’t afford (or justify) the high price you’ll pay for the Vaporfly, then the Pegasus Turbo is your next best bet.

It might not give you that extra 4% (but who really needs that, anyway!) but Pegasus is a well-loved name in the world of running shoes for good reason.

You actually get quite a bit of that 4% magic anyway – they’ve used the same ZoomX foam and you’ll find the sole still feels wonderfully cushioned out on the road.

This is the latest iteration of a classic, versatile shoe that is as good for a slow Park Run as it is for a marathon. Highly recommended.

3. The Brooks Ghost 11

Brooks are a big name in running and the Ghost is one of their most well-loved road shoes. It’s considerably more affordable than the Vaporfly too, which makes it a great option for the beginner runner.

They’re light and yet a pair of Ghosts still give you an incredible amount of support. The sole is stable and gives you an extra bit of cushioning – something your knees will thank you for once you start getting more miles under your belt.

4. Adidas Adizero Boston 7

Some people swear by Adidas running shoes and while we’re not usually one of them, this shoe really caught our attention.

It’s well cushioned for one, but we loved the way that you never lose any feel for the road beneath your feet. The construction is lightweight and felt stable, even over longer distances and varying road conditions.

It’s a shoe that will probably appeal to more experienced runners – it feels light and speedy, and the kind of trainer that you may well run a PB in one day.

5. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v9

These are comfortable shoes – make no mistake. But New Balance have also stuck an insole in there too to give you a perfectly cushioned running experience.

While you will still feel the road beneath your feet, with the Fresh Foam you get the sense that the bumps are nicely ironed out.

They’re fully breathable, of course, and while they are not the most exciting looking shoe out there, they will look after you for mile after mile.

Jürg Widmer Probst

Jürg Widmer Probst - fitness Marathon

Preparing for your first marathon

So, you’ve finally done it. You’ve gone and plucked up the courage to click ‘submit’ on your online entry. You’ve paid your fee, agreeing to run your first marathon, and worst of all, you’ve told all your friends you’re going to do it.

There is no backing out now – and now the real challenge begins. How on earth do you prepare for something as mind blowingly gruelling as 26.2 miles of hard running?

Well, we’ll be honest – it isn’t going to be easy. It wouldn’t be a marathon if it was. But it is do-able. Here are our tips for marathon first timers.

Get the right training plan

Notice the key word here is the ‘right’ training plan. There are countless ones out there – just search online – but they are for a myriad of different abilities and time scales.

So, think about how long you have to train before the big day. And have a very clear (and most importantly, honest) sense of where you are at in terms of fitness – and then choose your plan accordingly. Also, it’s probably well worth getting yourself checked out by a doctor if you have any doubts about your health.

Never increase your mileage by more than 10%

It’s a simple rule, but an incredibly important one. Keeping any mileage increase to 10% at the most is a great way to balance both pushing yourself to run further with protecting yourself from injury. So, if you run 10 miles one week, run no further than 11 the following week.

Use those rest days!

When you’re really getting into running it can be very tempting to do it all the time. You’re feeling great, and you can see the improvement you’re making. Then along comes one of those boring days with an ‘R’ for ‘Rest’ next to it in your training plan, and you decide that one more little run won’t harm you.

The problem is that those rest days are absolutely crucial – they allow your body to recover, but also to embed some of the fitness that you have been building up while you’re running. Don’t miss them out – they’re there for a reason.

Enjoy the day itself

It sounds ridiculous to say when you’re running well over 20 miles, but do try and enjoy the day. Yes, it will be unbelievably tough, and you are probably going to have more than a few dark moments.

But it is also really important to try soak up the experience of being out there for your first marathon – after all, you may never do it again!

So, while you are out there, look around you. Soak up the adulation of the crowds, high five the kids as you pass, and enjoy the luxury of being able to eat as many jelly babies as you feel like.

You have earned every single last one of them.

Jürg Widmer Probst

The world’s toughest trail running races - Jurg Widmer Probst

The world’s toughest trail running races

We all get tired of running on the roads sometimes. It can be monotonous dodging the crowds and the traffic, and the tarmac is punishing on our joints – particularly our knees.

So, what better than pulling on a pair of trail shoes and heading out into the wilderness for a while? Running off road has been around for as long as men and women have loved to run, but trail running is having a real boom at the moment. There are thousands of races and trail running challenges out there – but here, we’ve picked just a few of the very toughest on the planet to inspire you.

1. The UTMB, Switzerland

One of the most famous trail races on the planet, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) is a single-stage mountain ultra marathon – which really is as gruelling as it sounds. It is as tough to get into as it is to run – you’ll need to have been competing in ultra marathons for a while, accumulating the necessary points (and endurance!) to enter. But if you do get in, you will enjoy a truly unique experience – a route that covers 171 kilometres (with nearly 33,000 ft of climb!) – over the Alps of France, Italy and Switzerland.

2. The Barkley Marathons, Tennessee

If you haven’t seen the Netflix documentary on this infamous race, you might want to before you even think about trying to enter. This race is a true anomaly in the world of trail racing, and is the brainchild of one man, Gary ‘Lazarus Lake’ Cantrell. The race takes place in Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, Tennessee and is approximately 100 miles long. We say ‘approximately’ because the route changes every year and is notoriously fluid and hard to follow.

The race was inspired by the story of an escaped convicted who managed to cover just 8 miles in the woods over a period of 55 hours – the challenge for runners in the Barkley Marathons is to try and run the 100 mile route within a 60 hour cut off. Only 40 runners a year can enter – all you need to do is pay your fee, write an essay entitled ‘Why I Should be Allowed to Run in the Barkley’ and bring a license plate from your home country if you are (un)lucky enough to be chosen to race.

3. The Bob Graham Round, Cumbria

Actually more of a mountain running challenge than a set race, the Bob Graham Round is one of the toughest out there. The challenge is to run across 42 of the English Lake District’s mountains within 24 hours – something that guest house owner Bob Graham himself first achieved back in 1932.

It has been a jewel in the crown for trail and fell runners ever since, with professional trail runner Killian Jornet holding the current record. If you can beat his incredible time of 12hr 52m, then your place in trail running history is all but assured.

We hope these races inspire you to try running off road for yourself. While these incredibly tough races might be out of reach for most of us, taking the time to leave the tarmac behind and enjoy the wilderness is something we can all enjoy.

Jürg Widmer Probst

Jurg Widmer Probst

A beginner’s guide to running further

Whether it’s completing a 100km ultra marathon or just managing to jog to work every day, as runners most of will have goals that we want to achieve. It is the way we measure ourselves, and how we set targets that will hopefully push us to improve, little by little. These targets can be about beating a specific time – maybe a sub-three hour marathon – or perhaps you might have a certain number of kilos you’d like to shed. Continue reading “A beginner’s guide to running further”

Jurg Widmer - Runner

How to start running – and the mistakes to avoid

People run for all sorts of different reasons – some with a specific goal in mind, mine was losing weight – but the benefits of running also extend far beyond just the physical well being you’ll feel from getting out on the road. It’s also a fantastic way to beat stress and to clear the mind, as it is an activity that really encourages you to step out of your daily life and to just focus on the world around you. Particularly if you run off road, that time you spend running is an opportunity to get back in touch with the natural world  and to start to feel physically and mentally alive again – in a way that is just impossible in the gym. Continue reading “How to start running – and the mistakes to avoid”