Happy New Year everyone!
I hope your 2017 has been going well so far and that you are easing out of the festive season without too much resistance. I saw in the New Year bundled up marshaling at the Stonehaven Fireballs ceremony, which saw us have a relatively quiet celebratory night. In fact; it was well after 1.30am when I even had my first beer, which was well-earned after the hard work which the Fireballs team put in to clean up the event straight after it ends. We headed to a party afterwards and had a chilled couple of hours with friends, meaning I woke up feeling fresh and ready to start my 2017 with a bang!
I actually can’t remember the last time I woke up without a crippling hangover, never mind even waking up before midday on New Year’s Day. However; with the winter sun shining down on me, I had a wonderful head-clearing trot around Dunnottar Castle and Dunnottar Woods before lunch which really got my head in the right kind of positive place to get excited about my ultramarathon training in 2017.
Here’s what I did this week:
Monday: 4 mile road run around Stonehaven, followed by a 3 mile walk with friends
Tuesday: No training – packing and returning to Edinburgh
Wednesday: 10k canal run at lunchtime – breaking up my first day back at work nicely, then Hot Yoga at 7:45pm
Thursday: 10k run around Stockbridge and Dean Gardens at lunchtime
Saturday: 11.5 miles total, including a run with Mikeller Run Club Edinburgh (more on that later this week)
Sunday: 11.2 mile Long Slow Run on road.
This follows my usual ultramarathon training plan pattern of running Tue/Wed/Thur and then a Sat/Sun back to back. I will have another couple of weeks of running a 4/6/6 or 6/6/6 pattern in the middle before shifting up to higher midweek mileage; 6/6/8, 6/8/8, and eventually some midweek 10s as well – although that will be hard to fit in at lunchtime at my current pace!
I really enjoyed my first Hot Yoga class in a few months at Meadowlark, and next week I will also be heading back to the gym to re-incorporate more cross-training into my routine. In the last two months before Christmas, I re-joined Pure Gym and spent a lot of evenings doing classes in an attempt to shake up my fitness and re-gain some strength, as well as attempting to shift a bit of lard in the most efficient way possible. I equally hate and love HIIT training, but it pulls me out of my comfort zone and kicks my arse in to shape like nothing else does. I’ll be going back tomorrow…
It was around the same time I joined the gym that I received an email from Millet Sports asking if they could send me a pair of trainers from their running shoe range in exchange for my thoughts on them. I thought about it quite a bit before saying yes; I wasn’t sure I really needed more shoes and I didn’t want to be reviewing free stuff just for the sake of it, however after a few sessions at the gym, I realised I really needed some more gym-appropriate trainers and I had no idea where to start looking for the right kind of shoe.
On roads, I’m still running in my favourite On Running CloudSurfer shoe (I’m now on pair #5!), and on trails I switch between various Salomon trail shoes, or my Hoka ATR Challengers if it’s more than 20 miles. None of these shoes are suitable for doing gym work, especially if they’re clarted with mud from the weekend’s off road adventures. I was pleased to have a look through the huge selection of shoes which Millet Sports have, and to pick a shoe which I thought would do the right job for crosstraining. I wanted something light yet durable, with a pretty low heel-toe drop, and something which would be suitable for running on a treadmill as well.
I selected a pair of Nike Free Run Distance shoes, in a rather sharp looking black and white colourway. Despite being one of the biggest sports brands in the world, I have never been particularly drawn to trying Nike trainers for running, so I was keen to see how they would perform. I own several items of Nike running clothing and continue to be impressed by their durability after literally thousands of miles of usage, but I’ve always elected for more niche running shoes which target very specific runner requirements.
According to Nike, the Free Run Distance shoes were created after they learned that Stanford University track and field athletes had been training barefoot on the university’s golf course. Nike decided to develop a shoe that felt natural and weightless, with an overall goal of feeling similar to bare feet. The team then spent eight years studying the biomechanics of runners’ feet in motion, with the results yielding a profound understanding of the foot’s natural landing angle, pressure and toe position, allowing Nike designers to build an unconventional and flexible running shoe from the inside out. I’m not sure about unconventional – they seem pretty straight forward to me – but I always find it interesting to hear about why shoes are made to the specifications that they are.
- Weight: 207 grams
- Heel drop: 4mm
- Cushioning: Soft foam
- Sole: Hexagonal ‘flex grooves’
I was instantly pretty impressed with these shoes from the first moment I put them on. They are SO LIGHT! When they are on you can feel that they are a low drop shoe, but the soft foam sole adapts to your weight distribution so it never feels like the low drop is harsh on your calves. I chose a Ladies size EU42 which was mostly true to size, but if I was going to be doing a lot of long distance running in them I would either size up or choose the male version, just for a little extra swelling accommodation.
I have ran about 50 miles in the shoes and done several types of gym class in them. One of my favourite things is how sticky the sole is on a gym floor if you’re doing a plymetric or circuits class. For moves like box jumps or mountain climbers, the sole grips the floor solidly which gave me a lot more confidence in landing and executing my movements.
In terms of running, they feel good both on a treadmill and outside, but the grippy sole loses all control on wet leaves or icy pavements! I have ran in them when it was frosty or wet outside and had to really slow down; the hexagonal soles provide flexibility of movement but very little grip, so these are definitely a summer running or dry road choice. I wouldn’t contemplate going anywhere near a trail in them either, especially as to not ruin the lovely black/white leopard print detail on the sides…
I’m going to continue to wear them for my shorter mid-week running sessions, especially for any speed work which I do. The lightness of the shoes on my feet is really noticeable compared to my other road shoes, and it feels like I run lighter in them as well. At some point in the near future I will be doing a little parkrun time trial, so I will wear them for that kind of lung-bursting, 5k sprint effort, and see how they (and I) perform.
Thank you to Millet Sports (not Millets – confusingly, this is a completely separate company from Millets the High Street outdoor specialists) for providing me with my choice of shoes, and for their in-kind support of the costs of maintaining this blog.
***disclosure: I received the shoes of my choice in exchange for an honest review of the product. I received no additional compensation for this post, and as always, all opinions are my own***