Ever since my trip to Alpha Sports over the summer to get gait analysis done for the first time in years, I’ve been like a hungry child loitering around a sweet shop.
They confirmed I was no longer over-pronating to any meaningful degree. In fact, on the left side my choice of shoe (Ride ISOs from Saucony) were actually making me supinate and roll the foot outwards instead.
It explains the rub marks and blisters I’d been experiencing, particularly on long run days.
The advice was to start moving towards more neutral footwear and drop the aggressive stability controls like medial posts that are built into models such as the Rides, Asics Kayanos and older editions of my hitherto favourite the Brooks Adrenaline GTS.
I am a bit of a running shoe nerd. I’m sure I can’t be the only Buzzer who enjoys trawling through articles, reviews and YouTube videos about the latest innovations in trainer tech.
The exciting thing now is that I’m no longer restricted to window shopping!
And so began a spending spree. The running store started me off by recommending a pair of Brooks Ravennas, lighter and more stripped back than the Adrenaline, while still offering a touch of stability through the manufacturer’s guiderail system.
They are firm, but responsive and the fit is absolutely spot on for my foot shape. More than 150 miles covered so far with no adverse effects. A great daily trainer.
Since then I’ve also treated myself to a proper speed shoe. Not quite in the realm of those elite carbon plated racers, however it does have the tall stack height, bouncy midsole and lightweight upper.
Reviewers are raving about the Saucony Endorphin Speed, so much so that stock levels are very limited. When I did find one in my size I’m afraid I couldn’t resist.
At least the hefty price tag was made more bearable by a gift voucher from work given as a thank you for all our efforts during the pandemic.
I was partly sold on the looks alone, what Saucony calls its ‘mutant’ colourway. And while the Speeds may have been heavily hyped, I can confirm they are an incredible piece of kit.
Out of the box I did an interval session and clocked my fastest mile of the year. Next came a 5k time trial using the Parkrun route at Walsall Arboretum. I set a course PB and matched my overall best for the distance. Hype that’s worth believing then…
I couldn’t use them every day. That stack height makes for quite an unstable ride and I do find tight cornering particularly difficult.
But the sensation you get when you press on is exhilarating. They are angled to roll you onto your forefoot and the midsole, aided by a nylon plate, is super-springy once you put some force and power through it.
I tried a longer run too, which started great and felt very consistent through half marathon distance. A few miles later I started getting sharp pains in the toes on my left foot, which I can only assume is down to the shock and repetition of that forced mid to forefoot roll.
I battled through to 20 miles in just under three hours and then called it a day. There were no lingering after effects and I was out again the next morning, albeit in my Ravennas.
My most recent run in the Speeds was another 5k test, this time using the Parkrun course at Chasewater with an early evening start so the pathways would be nice and quiet.
Even on a 5k, I still work in miles (3.11 of them) and when the first mile split came up in 6:14 I did worry I’d gone off way too aggressively.
Mile two was also strong at 6:30 and I knew a PB was up for grabs if I could hang on. The third mile hurt, boy did it hurt, especially on a couple of unwelcome uphill stretches. At 6:45 it was slower, but still enough to smash my previous best.
A sprint finish got me tantalisingly close to sub-20 – 20:07 to be precise – and improved my PB (also set at Chasewater) by 36 seconds.
I was coughing and spluttering at the finish, not a good look in the current climate, and close to being sick. All-out 5ks are torturous, however I’m definitely not complaining and it’s a big personal achievement considering this was a solo run with nobody else to chase or pace myself against.
I like my new race shoes. I like them a lot! And I like the fact my gait and improved running form finally allows me to use them. Now the Speeds are cleaned and safely stored back in their box ready for a future challenge, probably when more events resume.
Now it hasn’t all been plain sailing and PBs since my last post. Milton Keynes Marathon Reimagined went ahead as planned in early September and I’m afraid I had a bit of a mare.
It was a two lap course navigated by a mix of signage and turn by turn instructions on a specially designed mobile app. Entrants didn’t run together, but did run the same route, with all results collated at the end of the allotted two week window for completing the marathon.
A clever alternative in these challenging times and worth having a go at to see if I could build on my successful lockdown marathon from back in May.
Unfortunately I couldn’t. My race started going wayward at about 16 miles and by 20 it had completely fallen apart. Hot and humid weather was adding to my problems and my two water flasks ran dry after mile 21.
Being unsupported, I couldn’t top up and dehydration then limited my ability to take on any more gels or snacks without retching. So rather than risk making myself ill (especially with no marshals or medics to help) I decided to walk it in.
Disappointing, however I know as well as anyone how hard an off-day marathon can bite. The job still got done, the finish line got crossed and time chasing will just have to wait for another day.
Next up is Beachy Head marathon. It was supposed to be our annual Buzzer gathering, until plans were forced to change because of COVID-19.
Credit to the organisers for keeping things going and coming up with a race plan that meets the required guidelines to make everything officially COVID-secure.
It will be different and compromised in some ways, however I can’t wait to be there for a desperately needed change of scene and a chance to participate alongside other runners.
I finished off my training block with a 21 mile outing over local trails, adding plenty of elevation to test the legs. It was also a chance to make sure my feet can stand being in trail shoes over longer distances because Beachy Head is predominately off road and likely to be wet and muddy.
All was good, so in a few days I’ll be heading south and making my way to a socially distanced start line, face mask and all.
I think we can all agree 2020 has been a shocker. At least with Beachy Head now confirmed, I have an opportunity to create a few positive memories and end the year on a high.
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