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A long weekend spent Running Up for Air

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Yes, I know, it's Tuesday but the Monday Debrief has Bank Holidays off. It had stuff to do, like trying to remember how to run after a whole week off, and weeding the garden, and being thrashed at Mario Kart by a seven year old yet again. Busy, see.

Anyway, my weekend was mostly spent in beautiful Chamonix, taking part in Patagonia's Running Up for Air event. This race started in Utah, where Salt Lake City is one of the most polluted cities in the US. Jared Campbell - who fans of ultra-masochism event the Barkley Marathons might recognise - started it up, working with local NGOs who are trying to improve the air quality. Now coming to Europe and Chamonix for the first time, I am relieved to report than unlike the Barkley marathons, it does involve escaping from a former prison and being mauled by fauna and generally having a miserable time in the name of sport. No, this event comprises 3, 6 and 12 hour options where the aim is to complete as many loops as possible. Fees go to …

London marathon 2019: the day I became a world record holder ...

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I've had some amazing days in my running career (for want of a better word). The Wings for Life world run in 2015. The sheer fun of beaming my way round Tokyo marathon in 2017. Finally breaking three in Seville last year. But running as a panda might just top them all.

From the surreal moments in the Guinness World Record tent - chatting with a mummy, lending duct tape to a post box, helping my friends assemble a sausage dog - the day just got better and better. Usually the first few miles of London marathon are pretty quiet but within minutes my friend Tim had popped up by the side of the road and the cries of "Go panda!" had started. If I had a pound for every time I heard that yesterday, I'd be the world first panda millionaire.

All marathons are journeys, both literally and emotionally - there's just so much time for your thoughts to bounce between excitement and despair and back again. And though the race unfolds over hours, I find it takes me days to proce…

Right on Hereford, left on Boylston ...

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You see this everywhere in Boston - "Right on Hereford, left on Bolyston". The final directions of the Boston marathon. I've never quite understood why it has such resonance - I mean, no one ever says "right on Birdcage Walk, left on the Mall." I know now. 

Partly, it's because it's literally the only two turns in the ENTIRE race. I swear to god I'd actually forgotten how to turn by that point. I laugh about only being able to turn left after epic track sessions, but running in a literal straight line for 26 odd miles is quite something. But mostly, for me, it was a case of finally, finally, reaching that iconic end of a very very very long race. 

26.2 miles is always hard, but some times it really decides to kick you in the teeth. I packed for Boston when the forecast was "freezing, rainy, headwind". Instead I died a slow death by humidity and ended up with sunburn. Of all the things I expected, that was not one!

I knew going into the race t…

Roll up, roll up, bring out your finest panda puns

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Pandamonium on the Running Channel
With a couple of big race days looming on the horizon, my thoughts have turned to the important questions: Where do pandas store their gels if they don't have pockets? What are the panda puns that are going to haunt me round 26.2 miles of London streets? Will it be hot like last year, and will I therefore be parboiled panda by mile 10? Can one carb-load on bamboo? Will I terrify any more small children like the one in the park when we were filming, who hid in her pushchair from me? Can I start regularly commuting in that costume, because actually that trip across London was really fun ... Yes, like I said, the big questions that haunt us all before race day.

Of course, I do have to get a small race in Boston out of the way first, but this is the big one. Quite literally, in the case of that panda head. In all seriousness, if anyone does have a cunning method of carrying gels when you don't have pockets and a race belt might be tricky to get r…

Goody bags and bad legs

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If only there were some direct relationship between the quality of a goody bag and the outcome of a race, eh? The above haul is from yesterday's excellently organised Kingston Spring Raceday. With 8.2 and 16 mile options, the hardest part of this race is always the bit where the 8 milers peel off for the finish and you have to go right past that oh-so-tempting finish line and slog another lap.

Unfortunately for me, my legs and my head were all over the place. At five miles I felt great, at 10 miles I pretty much wanted to give up running forever, at 14 I was feeling - well, I suppose not so much better as just relieved the end was nearly in sight.  Still, the caramel wafer tasted really nice last night.

I also definitely feel I need to get a better handle on Mother's Day. What with the clocks going back, setting an alarm for 6am and creeping out of the house before anyone else even woke up doesn't feel entirely right. Lying in bed and demanding breakfast on a tray is more…

Portland Oregon, London Landmarks Half and finally a decent run

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Well, it's been quite a week since my last post. On Monday I headed to Portland, Oregon, to visit the home of Nike. Portland (unofficial motto: "Keep Portland weird!") is set in the most beautiful valley, surrounded by unfeasibly tall trees and rolling hills. We visited the Nike campus - and it really is a campus. It's a mystery to me how anyone gets any actual work done what with the football fields, gyms, running track in the woods, full size swimming pool, multiple restaurants, lake to relax by, and so on. We also did a glorious hour of trail running up and down the hills in NW Portland and - in my case at least - drank a lot of delicious coffee. There will be more on this trip anon.

The coffee, though, was definitely needed - two long haul flights in four days probably isn't the ideal prep for a half marathon. However, it did mean my mileage dropped a bit for the week - no bad thing, given how I've been feeling. After the dreary trudge that was the Big H…

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow ...

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Time is an illusion, said a great sage and writer of our times. Lunchtime doubly so.  It is also, if I recall my half-listened to science lessons at school, relative to the observers movement in space. Well, when the observer is running around Battersea Park over and over again, the observer perceives three hours as lasting approximately the same amount of time as the Byzantine Empire. Acorns grew to oaks, matured, died. Glaciers tutted impatiently. I'm pretty sure a Pinus longaeva looked pointedly at its watch. Yes, it felt like a very long run.

I wish that I could find out who the girl was who was doing the same thing, in the opposite direction. Passing her twice a lap, on a LOT of laps, she started by smilling - by a few laps in we were giving each other little cheery waves. It really boosted me. You know how it is on a very long run, when you start looking forward to the smallest things? (I distinctly remember the point during one marathon when I thought "Oh hooray! I can …