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Running at night September 30 2015, 0 Comments

Nights are closing in. The equinox has passed and sunset here in Switzerland is currently shortly after 7pm rather than well after 9pm around the summer solstice. In another three months it will be dark before 5pm. For morning runners it will not be light until we are on the way to work. Temperatures are dropping, and so it's worth thinking about clothing and equipment for the changing season.

Firstly, if you are running off-street in unlit locations, a torch is a good idea. I have a small LED hand-held torch which gives me light to see what is in front of my feet, but prefer to allow my eyes to dark-adapt. You can see a surprising amount if you do this, and I find that I enjoy my surroundings more than I would if my horizon was limited to the reach of the torch. Some prefer head-torches, which leave your  hands and arms free. A couple in our running group have head-torches with enough candle-power to reach Austria, blinding everyone behind them when they turn round to see who is following, and then turning to go on and leaving us to stumble on in a red-haze.

As it is getting cooler, clothing layers allow you to adjust your temperature as you warm up during the run, and cool down again afterwards. I find that full length arm and leg coverings from Sport HG are a good foundation as they wick sweat away from the body, with shorts, shirts, pullovers, etc on top as needed. I usually have a change of clothing waiting at the end of the run in case it rains, and tie the additional layers around shoulders and waist as required. Many run with a small backpack into which additional clobber can be packed. It's cool enough now to change to Thermoprene Apex and Hero winter shoes which cope with the cold up to and including snow and ice. Last year in the snow I rinsed mud off my Heroes in a stream and my feet were comfortably warm for the rest of the run.

Finally, the accessories. A neck-warmer makes an astonishing difference to feeling cosy in cold weather, and gloves and an ear-covering hat for the extremities can be added and subtracted according to need. For wet weather I tend simply to add more layers to separate me from the water and allow the layers closest to me to warm through. Simple plastic rain protection tends to get just as wet on the inside as it is outside, so if you use waterproofing, best are high-tech fabrics which allow moisture passage outwards but not inwards.

In Sweden, renowned for it's chilly winters, they say that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Telephone apps allow us to predict running weather pretty accurately now. Between the two, we can run comfortably all year round.


Running inspiration September 22 2015, 0 Comments

I did the Greifenseelauf last weekend. It's a half-marathon run around the Greifensee lake here in Switzerland, relatively tame by Swiss standards because it is nearly all run on the flat, but a great opportunity to watch runners in action.

The run starts in a hubbub of excitement with each stage (there are 17'000 runners, so it needs to go off in stages...) setting off with an abundance of chatter and banter amongst the competitors, and with a few burning off into the middle distance either to achieve a fast finish or to be passed later walking. By about 10km most have settled into their quiet little world of contemplation and the rest of the run is conducted in silence. My own contemplation was about how running really is a community within which there is a diverse spread of inhabitants. Being in the barefoot shoe business, I pay attention to the footwear. There is a growing number of barefoot runners, ranging from the more conventional round-toed, lace-up variety through ZEMgear Ninja-Toe and Vibram Five Fingers to one runner who was wearing huarache sandals. There was even one pioneering soul who had gone back to absolute first principles and was running barefoot - I started this way, but chickened out when the cold weather arrived and switched to some nice snug ZEMger winter shoes.

But I digress - we were talking about the running community. If you go to YouTube and search for 'runner helps', you get over 40'000 hits. Many of these are codswallop, but amongst them are some truly wonderful stories. One of the most famous is Derek Redmond who had to stop running with a painful hamstring injury in the 1992 Olympics 400m final, but who got up and hopped on to finish the race, helped by his father who evaded the security people to get to his side. In long distance running, Ivan Fernandez deserves a mention for slowing down to tell his disoriented leading competitor where the finish line was and allowing him to cross first, or Meghan Vogel, who stopped to pick up Arden McMath, a competitor in trouble, and helped her across the finish line. There are many more, and they both inspire, and make me glad to be a part of this remarkable community.


ZEMgear Heroes at home in the snow February 11 2015, 0 Comments

Last weekend I went away with a running group for a Winterfest.  One of us lays a trail using blobs of coloured flour - you can see from the picture that on Saturday it was blue.  When the trail is laid, the rest of us follow it, navigating such deliberate obstacles as places where the trail disappears so that we have to fan out and find it, and others where it doubles back on itself.

You can also see that we ran on a lot of snow and ice, which makes for hard work when it is either broken up or deep.  I was wearing Apexes on Friday evening and Sunday morning, and Heroes on Saturday.  My feet were toasty warm through all three runs, and, even in deep snow, I never had the discomfort of snow getting into the ZEMs.

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The reason for this harks back to the orignial ZEMgear designs which were for playing beach volleyball.   They are fully elasticated, fitting snugly to the feet and ankles (I can testify that on beaches no sand gets in).  Likewise, the winter versions don't let in the snow and the Thermoprene material ensures that feet stay warm while running.

They were all good runs, Saturday's longer than expected as we got lost, eventually clocking over 20km and instilling even more confidence in me that snow and ice are no obstacles for a good pair of barefoot shoes!