New Balance Fresh Foam 1080

How bright are these?! I have an orange glow in my peripheral vision when I run in them!

Glowing

Glowing

I was recently sent these lovely new Women’s Fresh Foam 1080s to try out and instantly felt a bounce in my step. When I initially tried them on, I felt the back was quite low and that it might slip as I ran, but this wasn’t a problem at all – they just felt low compared to the shoes I’ve been wearing until now…this might have been helped by their ‘bootie-like fit’. The Fresh Foam 1080 has been developed ‘using data gathered from athletes who run at an average pace’, so is well cushioned and has excellent flexibility.

Unboxed

Unboxed

An improvement I have noticed from previous NB shoes I have worn, is the more roomy toe box, with the new style mesh upper giving my toes more room to spread out as I run. I went for a half-size up, as I always do with running shoes and these felt about right. One problem I did have on my first outing was a blister on the arch of my foot, with the foam insole feeling a little too high for me (this has since eased and I’ve had no problem with blisters since). I would say this is a great shoe for everyday running, longer runs and has the durability – with a blown rubber outsole – to cope with high mileage. You can check out the Fresh Foam 1080 here and have a look at the full NB range here.

In action

In action

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New Balance New Shoes

I recently had the chance to go along and see the new range of shoes and apparel from New Balance. Having tried out a few of their shoes now, I’m always keen to see what they’re bringing out and any new innovations they have up their (lycra?) sleeve.

Running shoes running track

Running shoes running track

Something that stood out were the new style Fresh Foam shoes, which feature a Fresh Foam midsole and durable blown rubber outsole, which responds to the runner’s footstrike and impact patterns. This has been carried over into the 980v1 trail shoe, to give a more natural feel under foot on varied terrain.

980v1 Trail

980v1 Trail

I was particularly interested in the underside of the shoes (yeah, I know, geek), and like what they’ve done:

Grippy

Grippy

I have found trail shoes that have too deep a groove just pick up sticky mud as you go and you end up clomping around with heavy, solid feet. These grooves are just deep enough to grip and have the teeth running towards the back for the upward climb…and they’re light. Excellent!

I’ve recently been trying out some NB trail running shoes:

Autumnal shoes

Autumnal shoes

The Leadville 1210 has been made especially for ultra runners and has a tough Vibram outsole to cope with different terrains, but has been stripped of any unnecessary extras to lessen the chance of rubbing on longer distances. I haven’t exactly been going that far in them, but have certainly put them through their paces on slippery hills and wet paths.

Box fresh

Box fresh

They’re a lovely looking shoe (not that this means a thing once they’re caked in mud) and feel light enough to be responsive. I always find NB shoes to be a bit tight, so tend to go up half a size, but this pair are one whole size bigger, which makes them a little loose for my narrow feet – I think they are roomy to allow for the inevitable swelling that happens over longer distances. I would definitely recommend trying them on and giving them a test to make sure you get the right size, so important when you’re taking on epic distances.

Chasing a PB at the British 10k London Run

It would be amazing to get a good, solid night’s sleep before a race, but I doubt many people do. I didn’t, and kept waking at every noise, so was ever so slightly grumpy when my alarm went off at 6.30. I had checked the TFL website on Saturday night to find that trains from my station wouldn’t be running early enough so, once I’d sneaked out of the house as quietly as I possibly could (this didn’t stop a small sleepy-head appearing at the top of the stairs…), I cycled over to Lewisham to catch a train. I hadn’t checked my entire planned route, so found myself crowded on a tube train with a mixture of sporty people and still-drunk people, all being kicked off at Waterloo. I might have been on my way to the New Balance VIP area, but I’m sure ‘real’ VIPs don’t find themselves legging it sweatily through a city to get to the start with stress levels set at number 10!

Perfect shoes for the day

Perfect shoes for the day

When I did eventually reach The Cavalry and Guards Club on Picadilly, I was delighted to be directed upstairs by a very smiley and enthusiastic concierge, taking in the sumptuous surroundings as I climbed the wide staircase. The people at New Balance had very kindly laid on a delicious-looking breakfast, but most runners were politely sipping tea or topping up their water levels, having already had their pre-race breakfast before setting off (the big breakfast was just what I needed after the race!). At this point I was thinking less about eating and more about needing the loo, that annoying ‘I’m sure I need the loo AGAIN’ thing you do pre-race. Being in such lovely surroundings, the loo visit was actually rather nice and certainly beats a portaloo any day!

For Ladies

For Ladies

Ahead of the race starting, there were a few special moments when a procession of war horses made their way along Picadilly, accompanied by poems written by soldiers and some beautiful singing by the Military Wives Choir. From our vantage point on the balcony, we could see the crowds of colourful runners waiting patiently to start. I believe the start at last year’s race had been quite congested, but this year everything seemed to have been considered thoroughly, with each wave being slowly guided into place before setting off. I headed down to the start line and rather inelegantly clambered over a barrier (I was told to do this, I wasn’t gate-crashing, honest) and found myself right at the front, with the elites and a couple of thousand Help For Heroes runners. It was at this moment that I realised my Garmin had switched itself off and I had to try and get a signal in the 20 seconds left…I crossed the start line looking at my watch and waiting for it to get itself into gear, not a great start!

The start

The start

The crowds at this point were great, lots of really good cheering from the friends and family along one side and the runners still waiting to set off along the other. I pushed hard and tried – for a while at least – to stay near the front 🙂 In November I ran the Movember 10k in Greenwich Park and managed a PB of 53.14 (whilst wearing a knitted moustache), so really wanted to try and beat this time, with a little goal in my head of going sub-50. This would mean consistently running 5 minute kms, but my Garmin was having trouble giving me an accurate pace, so I was going by how I felt and allowing myself to be swept along with the runners and with the enthusiasm of the crowd.

I have found, through running parkrun as much as I can, that I enjoy a familiar course and knowing where I can push and where to hold back. I had looked briefly at the map of the route for this race, and I know the roads on the course pretty well, but I was surprised at how quickly I reached the next landmark. There was plenty of twisting and turning, with a long stretch along the Embankment and a slight low-point going through Blackfriars Tunnel (where my Garmin went all silly on me). I remembered this from the London Marathon, about three miles from the end…

Now we had the treat of seeing the faster runners heading back towards Big Ben and I gave a little cheer to the front runners. In no time at all I was in the same position with thousands of other runners across the barriers, still to enjoy that turning point ahead. One thing I would suggest improving on next year is the size of the KM markers, I missed a few (this is a good thing!) and it might be nice to be able to spot them ahead to give you a little push (especially as my Garmin wasn’t giving me an accurate reading). Now I was beginning to tire a little, and the run over Westminster Bridge felt longer than it had looked on the map. As I had visualised the course ahead of the race, I had seen myself take a right turn after Big Ben and sprint towards the finish, but oh no, it was through Parliament Square and a long slog out to Victoria before I could even think about finishing! What a relief to see the finish arch and to hear the crowds. I looked up at the clock and could see that, if I legged it, I might just make it under 50 minutes. This effort involved me making a lot of noise and pumping my arms possibly more than I needed to, but I just sneaked under as the clock ticked on.

At this point, walking up towards Trafalgar Square, I realised that, when you are running this sort of distance and running hard, scenery is largely irrelevant – I saw runners ahead of me, passing through the square and really couldn’t remember having done so myself! That’s how hard I was focussing! By now I had contacted the boys and it turned out they were at the finish line, looking really hard for me at the 50 minute point. Oops! I picked up my bag and medal, drank lots of water, and hoped that the official time would show what I wanted it to show…

Obligatory medal shot

Obligatory medal shot

…it did. 49.52, 43rd lady out of 8518, 453rd overall. Chuffed.

I would like to wish a huge congratulations to my friend Helen who, five months after giving birth, was back out there yesterday and run/walking the whole course with her friend Jo. What an inspiration!

Vitality British 10K London Run

…is this Sunday! It’s come round so quickly, as these things do: I always think, months ahead of the event, that I will focus and train hard and have the race of my dreams. I have been focussed and have certainly been training hard, but I’m not entirely sure if this has been 10k specific. My times over 5k have steadily got faster (another PB at Hilly Fields the other week, with a 23.52 finish), but I haven’t really focussed on running further – I know I can run 10k, but I can’t see myself achieving such times over the longer distance. My speed may be helped by these colourful shoes, that certainly give me some bounce…

Speedy

Speedy

You can find out all about the NB 1080v4 here. I have worn NB shoes before and really do like them, I would recommend going up a half-size though because I find the toe-box a little tight, so you need to give your toes a bit more space to spread. These shoes feel very light and the ‘no-sew’ construction means less potential for rub and therefore blisters. Oh, and they’re pretty aren’t they?!

Here is some information from New Balance about the New Balance Village at Sunday’s race:

Runners in the Vitality British 10K London Run will be welcomed to the exclusive ‘New Balance Village’ on Sunday 13th July. New Balance, which is an official sponsor of the race, is treating runners to special incentives including access to an interactive chill out area, as well as a free sports massage for runners wearing New Balance.

The ‘New Balance Village’ will be home to a host of activities including sports massage from YourPhysioPlan.com, a network of expert independent physiotherapy practices across the UK. Together with YourPhysioPlan.com, New Balance is offering runners wearing the brand a free sports massage in a space before or after the race. Those wearing the iconic brand will also receive a free New Balance T-shirt and an exclusive discount on a 12 month membership with YourPhysioPlan.com, the only physiotherapy, massage and conditioning monthly payment plan available in the UK.

All runners are invited to celebrate after the race in the ‘New Balance Village’ chill out area, where they can play crazy golf amongst London landmarks, feast on complimentary popcorn and pose for a picture in front of Westminster Abbey and Big Ben within the photo cut out boards. Visitors to the New Balance Village can also head to the New Balance market to pick up the latest New Balance technical trainers from sports retailer Sweatshop.

All participating runners will receive a free pair of exclusive New Balance union jack trainer laces and a discount voucher for Sweatshop at the bag drop areas at the end of the race.

Samantha Matthews, New Balance marketing manager, said: “British manufacturing is a rich part of our heritage, so we’re proud to support an iconic race like the Vitality British 10K London Run.

“We want to give all runners a taste of the New Balance experience, which is why we’ve created a fun interactive area for them to celebrate after the race, as well as giving away free New Balance laces and a Sweatshop discount for all runners. We also have some great incentives lined up for all runners wearing New Balance, including a free expert sports massage to help them unwind.”

The New Balance Village will all be located at Waterloo Place, London. Runners taking part in Vitality British 10K London Run who don’t want to miss out on the New Balance race day incentives can pick up an exclusive discount on a new pair New Balance trainers with Sweatshop. Head to http://www.sweatshop.co.uk and enter code NBB10K by31st July, 2014 to receive 20% OFF all New Balance footwear and apparel.

This year the Vitality British 10k London Run is supporting Help For Heroes as its lead charity partner and will honour the 100 years since the First World War with a host of activities.

Keep up-to-date with all of the latest New Balance news on Twitter @NewBalanceUK and newbalancerunninguk on Facebook.

 

 

Bend it like Fitartist

I yoged again 🙂 We had a different teacher this morning and, at first, I thought ‘Oh no, she’s putting on weirdy floaty chanty whaley music’ but actually she was very good and, once I’d stopped being distracted by the fact that the beautiful white walls are already scuffed after just one week, I had a good old stretch and even drifted off in a relaxed state a couple of times. Her class wasn’t as ‘sporty’ as last week, more ‘relaxy’, but I really liked it.

To get there I decided I would run. I got some gorgeous new shoes in the post this morning and couldn’t wait a moment longer to try them out. Now, I know you’re supposed to ease gently into minimal running shoes, but I was just too eager, and I decided one mile to yoga, a bit of bending and stretching then one mile back is quite gentle enough.

Cute shoes

Cute shoes

As I set off I was stepping gingerly along, afraid that I might heel-strike and do myself a mischief but, once I’d got over the initial weirdness of it all, I remembered that I strike with my mid-foot anyway, and didn’t really need to adjust much. The fronts of my lower legs started aching quite quickly, so maybe I was tensing up a bit, but I guess that comes with time. I felt much lighter and springy, which seems odd when you consider that these shoes have very little in the way of cushioning – the spring was all my own! I will keep you updated with my ‘barefoot’ progress as I try them out further this week. In the meantime, here’s a picture of Hector’s Lego Daft Punk for Travelling Hopefully, who has been enjoying the pumping beats at the gym:

Daft Punk as seen by a six-year-old

Daft Punk as seen by a six-year-old

You may wonder what an very-nearly-six-year-old is doing listening to Daft Punk, well they look like robots and they sound like robots, so what’s not to like?!

Real life robot

Real life robot

You may also wonder where I’ve been hiding for the past few days. Well, I have run – I did the 10k section of Peter’s class on Saturday. This was a one-and-a-half hour session with very many press-ups, a gruelling up and down hill section and a forty minute run – when he said ‘And now you will run for fourteen minutes’ I thought ‘Oh that’s ok’, but then I realise he had in fact said ‘forty’. It was hard-going but really good stuff. I have also been to the gym and I have stood around cheering on fellow runners at Hilly Fields Parkrun, something I always consider to be running by proxy…

Good Form Running at the Marathon Expo

I’m a bit behind! Last week you could have been led to believe that I was running the London Marathon, I was certainly entering into the marathon build up with great enthusiasm, right down to going along to the expo but, alas, that crossing-the-line feeling of joy was not to be mine. I was invited along to a special New Balance expo breakfast event on Thursday, so sneaked out of the house super early to ride the DLR with the sleeping people to the runners’ mecca that is Excel. I was greeted along with other running bloggers/writers Carla, Shaz and Kate by the lovely people from NB, all kitted out in matching black outfits and funky shoes. We quickly and enthusiastically drooled over the colourful array of new shoes before being introduced to New Balance’s new concept ‘Good Form Running’.

New balance have taken all of those things we know we should be doing when we run, to make us into more efficient (and injury-free?) runners, and condensed them into four key areas: posture, midfoot, cadence and lean. In the next few weeks this concept is being taken out into fifteen shops across the country so runners can pop in and have a look at their own form and receive some advice about what they might think about adjusting to make things run a bit more smoothly. To help us understand this, Kate took to the treadmill (already in some Minimus shoes) and demonstrated exactly how we should be moving. She was keen to point out that she found the shoes naturally put you into this optimum position, partly due to the fact that it hurts to heel-strike in a ‘barefoot’ shoe. First of all we looked at posture. We were told that it’s good to start thinking about the key points before you even set off, resetting your posture by standing tall, pointing your toes forward and, whilst running, allowing your arms to swing easily at about a 90 degree angle. Next we discussed foot-strike, with the midfoot strike being the kind of strike we should be aiming for. I sat there imagining my own running form, picturing a heavy heel-strike all the way, but actually, since attending the event I have realised that my footstrike is pretty much midfoot anyway (well phewee!). An interesting point that was raised next was cadence, how many times we strike the ground each minute. To help us reach the goal of 180 strides per minute, we were given a neat little metronome, which was pulsing away in the background to keep us in check. Finally we talked about lean, leaning forwards from our ankles, not bending from the waist. This can also be addressed pre-run by leaning forwards against a wall or tree and setting that position in your mind to carry you forward into your run.

Having seen it in action, this all makes perfect sense and, having just four key points to consider helps it become easier to implement in your everyday running. I can see how wearing lower heel shoes can make this happen more naturally, but all of these things can be put into action on any kind of run. Enthused by it all, I set out the next day with the 180 beat in my head and I simply sailed along! I’m not sure how long I could keep it up, but this is something you work on over time (NB suggest you go back to the shop around six weeks later, to see how you are getting on and reassess anything that might need addressing). In addition to learning about Good Form Running, we were shown some fantastic new shoes, ranging from tough and chunky ultra shoes to light-as-a-feather ‘barefoot’ shoes. I was most delighted to be given a pair of the rather special shoes created just for the London Marathon, inspired by Savile Row tailoring and with a matching ‘chap’ t-shirt 🙂

I have put together my photos of the day and you can find out all about New Balance shoes and apparel here.

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Light-footed and patriotic

I miss the Olympic Games, I miss the Paralympic Games and I miss the uncharacteristically friendly London we encountered during the games. In an attempt to keep the spirit alive, I have been running around in these little lovelies:

Light as a feather

I received them in the post a few weeks ago and was, initially, slightly disappointed that they weren’t more Union Jackish, but have since forgiven their slight subtlety, and have embraced them wholeheartedly. I have always liked New Balance shoes, having had a pair of trail shoes when I first started running all those years ago. They were just lovely: light, bouncy, nicely designed and even waterproof; I was sad to have to replace them when they were no longer as bouncy. I was very pleased to be asked to try out this particular pair of shoes, having seen that they are a lightweight shoe, and they certainly are! You can see here that they have a blown rubber outsole that you can sense straight away, giving just enough cushioning and lots of flexibility.

Soleful

When I took them out of their box Hector took a great deal of interest in them, turning them round, looking at the sole and trying to take out the inner section. When I asked him what he was looking for, he said: ‘Is there a toy* in here?’. Shoe manufacturers, you are missing a trick, a little Mo Farrah would be just perfect as a little heel mascot 😉 There are some nice details such as the ‘British Miler’ logo on the tongue and the nicest – Union Jack – aglets I’ve ever seen.

Nice tongue

I couldn’t dirty these chaps up in the park, so went straight to the track. I was advised to go up half a size and, having had some NBs that stubbed my toes previously, I listened to this advice and ended up with a size six. As I walked to the track, I wasn’t sure if this was such a good idea, as there was a bit of heel slip but this stopped once I started running – I guess some clever lace-tying could rectify this potential problem (though I did find the laces a bit long, and had to do a double knot to stop them trailing and coming undone). These shoes are lovely. They felt comfortable straight away, they were light, so light in fact that I was totally unaware of them and could just focus on my running. I had a great session with some good paces hit and, when I went in to the gym, the manager said: ‘I saw you running on the track, you were fast! I was surprised!’ (I’m not entirely sure about that last bit, but let us imagine he was being nice)! Woo-hoo! Someone said I was fast! I have decided that these will now be reserved for track sessions, they are my special edition Union Jack lucky shoes and I don’t want them to lose any of their gloss.

*Hector has a pair of sport shoes that have a toy hidden in the heel.