Robbie Britton is known for being one of Britain’s best ultra-runners and long-distance coaches. He thrives at the races where most of us would recoil in horror (like 24 hours non-stop) but usually writes about them in a way you are almost (and I stress only almost) tempted to rush off to enter them. He is also pretty fast in the shorter distance races (16:02 for Parkrun) so his advice has been tested just as well for short as long distance.
His fun writing style that he regularly shows on FastRunning.com and in magazines like Runners World works really well in this book to make it feel light-hearted but knowledgeable. There is no lecturing about all the things we are know we should do as runners but gentle nudges, evidenced based cautions and some really good advice that you know has come through originally doing things the hard way. When you need a little inspiration there are some stunning photos.
The book is broken down into 9 key sections: Basics, Training, Skills and Techniques, Environment, Runners Body, Racing, Kit and Equipment, Travelling and Stuff (which is ask the stuff you need to know and are too shy to ask – like running with dogs, etiquette or wild weeing). I thought I would pick my favourite tip (most with a psychological angle obviously) from each section…
- Basics: Tip 22 – “Each run should have a purpose….As long as you have a purpose for it, it can be of value to you, but remember that purpose as you’re going along. If it is a recovery run, then keep that in mind so you ensure you’re getting what you need that day.”
- Training: Tip 105 – “Don’t follow someone else’s training plan. The number of people who have tried to copy sessions…and come unstuck is amazing. Take lessons from them, adapt to your own level and experience, but be smart.”
- Skills and Techniques: Tip 314 – “If you have a long descent, don’t forget to eat. Just because your effort level is lower doesn’t mean you can stop eating for the downhill. You’re refuelling for the next climb and you might be able to digest a little better as you’re not working as hard.”
- Environment: Tip 376 – “There are fancy gadgets to dry your shoes; yesterday’s newspaper does a good job too. Take out the insole to dry next to the shoe and stuff your preferred tabloid in there. Try to sort it so that someone’s face is looking at you from the shoe, and it’ll make you smile before your next run.”
- Runners Body: Tip 464 – “If you are running so fast in a marathon or longer race, that you can’t eat anything, then you are running too fast. Period….If you can’t fuel that pace for the length of a marathon then you are not going to get to the end as quickly as your legs suggest.”
- Racing (loads of great psych tips in this one): Tip 585 – “Every kilometre or so think about your form. Eyes up; looking up the road not on the floor; drive your arms back; run smoothly. Having a list or mantra can help you stay focused on the task at hand.”
- Kit and Equipment: Tip 782 – “No watch, heart rate monitor or foot sensor can replace your own perception of how you are running; if you find yourself over-reliant on a GPS watch for your pace or shoes that tell you how to run then you are not likely to really reach your potential.”
- Travelling: Tip 852 – “When planning where to stay look for somewhere close to the start line, especially if it is an early one. Being near the finish might be helpful at the end but it won’t have any impact on performance, whereas being near the start can definitely help.”
- Stuff: Tip 922 – “If you catch another runner up don’t just sit behind them. This goes especially for male runners behind female runners; it’s creepy.”
This isn’t a training guide or a ‘how to’ – but for those a bit daunted by starting or stepping up a distance or expanding their running it is a really nice way to get the basics covered and find out all the things you never thought to ask. You can buy a copy direct from the publisher at: 1001 Running Tips – Vertebrate Publishing (v-publishing.co.uk)