On 04 March 2018 In Running News

Welcome back to Marathon Mondays! We hope that your training is going well, and that you’ve found good alternatives in the inclement weather to keep your training ticking over. Any gruelling stories of death by treadmill?

Today, you get to know Kevin Oakes, our second club runner at the London Marathon. The club has 2 slots at the London Marathon, which are allocated annually through an application process around October, after those who were successful in the ballot have received their places. So without further ado: Meet Kevin!

Kevin Oakes

I’m Kevin Oakes, Full time manufacturing team leader for a leading packaging company as well as a part time coach/personal trainer and nutritionist.

Kevin Oakes 2What is your sporting back ground?

I have always been involved in sports since I was a child. I used to compete for GB in kickboxing until I broke my ankle at the age of 15. I then began road running at the age of 19 after completing my first 10k race which was the Two Castles from Warwick to Kenilworth Castle. After completing the Birmingham Half Marathon in the same year, I then decided to join Bourneville Harriers where I took part in XC and relay races. Bourneville Harriers helped me achieve my UK Athletics qualifications which then encouraged me to study Sports Science and personal training alongside my full time commitments. I then became coaching co-ordinator for the Harriers which involved me organising session plans, club routes, coaching rota’s and beginner courses.

The experience of running and taking these sessions for the club also helped me develop a connection with Birmingham City Council. Following this I started coaching coach Couch to 5 k and Couch to 10k sessions for Active Parks, Great Run and parklives. I enjoy helping others achieve their goals but seem to neglect my own athletic development in the process.  

I then decided to join BRAT where I have now been a member for about 4 to 5 years. Since joining the club I have never looked back and I’m proud to be with a successful club. Previously the furthest I have run was 24 miles in preparation for the Paris marathon. I had to pull out due diabetic complications.

What is your goal for the Virgin London Marathon?

My goal for London is to complete the course in around 3 hours and 15 minutes. This is based on my training time for a half marathon. I’m also looking to enjoy the experience more as my previous marathon attempt had left a scar in my own thought pattern which left me scared to run long distance. I would like to break this fear and stay motivated which I then hope will benefit my half marathon and 10k times.

What does your weekly training look like?

My training is not really set as I only do as much as my body will allow. I learnt a valuable lesson from my previous failed attempt in which I set all my training in stone whether or not I was in pain or tired. I now listen to my body and alter my training depending on how I feel. Currently I feel very strong as my training consist of 2 days steady runs, 1 long run and 1 speed session along with a race. I also attend the gym 5 times per week with the aim to develop and maintain muscle endurance, strength and flexibility.

Have you got a preferred running time and why?

I prefer running first thing in the morning over the weekends. However, sometimes due to work I do not have a chance to do this, so the evening will need to do.



Any quirky habits when running?

I have an addiction to running shoes and very unusual running clothes. Over the past 3 months I have purchased 4 pairs of shoes, 2 of which I have not worn yet. This is handy as you are meant to switch your shoes around, but I can say this is becoming a bit of an addiction now.

Also due to many years of running to Linkin Park, I have developed a strange habit of touching my left and right ear while running. I think this really developed through rubbish ear phones that were constantly falling out, but it’s one habit which has stayed.

What’s the best and worst part of running?

The best part of running is when you feel that you have plenty of energy and the crowds are cheering you on. With regards to the worst part, in my experience it is being in hypo and trying to get to the finish. This is something I can imagine a lot of diabetic athletes have experienced and it can be very scary at the time.

What do you think about when you are running?

I constantly think about my technique and how my foot is hitting the pavement. I also like to enjoy the sights and sounds of the environment around me. For example, the best race so far in my experience was the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon just due to the sounds of nature and the snow all over the mountains. Probably my slowest half marathon but I just did not care about pace or the race entirely as the experience was amazing.

What are your favourite pre-race meal and postrace treat?

Usually for morning running it would be porridge and banana. For a mid-day race I would usually have toasted bagels. As for my post-race treat this is where I’m very boring. It’s got to be a Venti Skinny Latte with sugar free vanilla syrup and a protein bar.

Why are you doing this, what motivates you?

I have a few reasons as to why I’m doing the London Marathon. One of these reasons is for my own personal challenge as I would like to prove to myself that I can do the distance. The failure of my first attempt made me beat myself up and made me question my own ability as well as my coaching knowledge. One question kept going through my mind when I failed “How can you advise someone when you can’t do it yourself?”. I still ask myself this question when I do not achieve what I expect out of a race or from an assignment, but somehow pull myself together when someone I have coached smashes their own goals or expectations.

I’m also involved with diabetes research at the Queen Elizabeth hospital. My experience and journey towards the London Marathon will help other diabetics prepare for such endurance events. This will help the centre at the hospital better understand diabetic athletes and what treatment or regimes can be implemented to assist others to achieve their best .



Good luck, Kevin!

Come back in two weeks, when we hve one of our marathon training posts again.

On 18 February 2018 In Running News

Welcome to our next instalment of Marathon Mondays. Remember the performance triangle? It consists of training, nutrition and rest and recovery. Today we are focusing on nutrition. This will give you some insight into the role of day-to-day nutrition and race-day fuelling.

Why should you bother with nutrition? And if you want to adapt your nutrition which diet should you follow? After all, there are any number of endurance athletes and experts who will tell you that you have to follow one of these diet approaches to improve your performance: Vegetarian, vegan, paelo, high fat low carb, Atkins, Juicing… the list is endless. While each of them has their good points, many will not adequately provide for endurance athletes. Your food is not just what keeps you going, it is also necessary for body composition, bone health, consistency of training, mood and motivation, as well as reducing the risk of injury and illness. As such your food choices affect in one way or another all aspects of the performance triangle.

nutrient dense food horIn your every day nutrition, the "I'm marathon training, I can eat what I want" approach can work as a nutrition strategy to a point. But nutrient dense food choices, ie foods that give you lots of nutrients with comparatively few calories, will support the functions of food mentioned above much better, prevent fatigue and stress of the immune system. Nutrient dense foods are for instance salmon, kale, potatoes, garlic, blueberries and egg yolks.

For running at marathon pace, your body will burn carbohydrates due to the intensity and duration. But not all carbohydrates are created equal. The more processed a carbohydrate is (like packaged foods, sweets, refined sugar) the more it becomes stripped of its nutrients, making its calories “empty.” To fuel your body and your run, reach for complex carbohydrates like whole fruits and vegetables, dairy, whole grains, potatoes, and legumes. These foods provide a host of nutrients, including fibre, vitamin C, and calcium, that will help runners feel full and perform at their best. In addition to being better for your health than simple sugars, complex carbs are a better choice if you are interested in weight loss.

That does not mean denying yourself that slice of cake after your run (we all run for cake, right?). The key point is moderation and aiming to generally eat a balanced diet of mostly nutrient dense foods.

So when it comes to racing, what should I do?

Certainly, you will want to "carb-load" in the days before the race. How to carb load properly is a whole separate blog post, but when done properly, you fill your muscle glycogen stores to the brim before you take off on your half or full marathon. But even with the carb-load, there’s a limit to how much muscle glycogen you have on board. This means that at some point during the race, you need to start topping up your fuel tank. Physiologists stipulate a carbohydrate intake during your race of 30 to 60 grams per hour (depending on your bodyweight and intensity), which you can typically find in gels, blocks, bars, and drinks. Aim to consume some carbs every 15-20 minutes along the course. This will give your body time to absorb and disperse the fuel to the working muscles.

Remember to practice fuelling during your training. Find the fuel that works best for you. Some runners prefer fuelling with solid foods (e.g. bananas, cold pressed fruit and nut bars, rice cakes) because taking 3 gels per hour over a long period of time can impact the best digestive system. Experiment what works for you!

If you are running the London Marathon, test out Lucozade products which will be available along the course at the feed stations. If you can tolerate them, you can be confident on race day that you won’t have any GI surprises and you won’t need to pack as much in your fuel belt. Once you find products that work for you, stick with them and pack them on race day.

What are your race day fuelling strategies and top tips? Let us know!

On 14 February 2018 In Running News

Birmingham League race 4 - 10th February 2018

The fate of the men's cross country team came down to wire on Saturday. Having been in the relegation places all season we needed a supreme effort at Wolverhampton in the final race of the season. With all available runners answering the call to arms we fielded the strongest team we could muster and hoped it would be enough to save us. The outcome was a real nail-biter, but our best finish of the season (10th position out of 16 teams) meant that we did enough to move out of the relegation places (just), and with 3 teams to go down rather than the expected 4 we survived by a tiny 24 point margin in a season's total of 2485 - so that famous 1% extra effort over the season was the deciding factor and we remain in the top division for next season. Well done lads! And big thanks to Richard and Ashley for helping with duties at the finish.

A team: Dan Robinson 39, Martin Matthews 76, Steve Dunsby 84, Mark Ince 90, Nick Lewis 99, Tom Powell 108 = total 496

The B team also had their best result of the season finishing a brilliant 7th to close the season in 8th place. This demonstrated our strength in depth, which in fact was our key weapon over the whole season - having lost 2 of last season's top runners before the season started and others to injury half way through the season, we still managed to field strong teams.

B team: Jon Lundy 115, Thanos Tsolakis 130, Nathan Warren 141, Abayomi Adedimeji 145, Adam Western 173, Ben Beaumont 174 = total 878

Chasing hard: Toby Close 176, Iain Squires 180, Chris Burrows 183, Andy Kenchington 186, Huw Jones 196, Raggy Gray 199, Nathan Smith 212, Will Raiment 214, Chris Grimley 216, Frank Inman 224, Kevin Oakes 226, Chris Woods 235, Rob Dowse 238, Andy Piddington 242, Paul Cannon 245, Rob Rose 274, David Sansom 292. Damian Cartland sadly had to pull out injured mid race; there were 300 finishers.

Full results and tables are at www.birminghamccleague.co.uk

So huge thanks to all who turned out at Wolverhampton and over the course of the season to run, to volunteer or to support; it's been memorable in so many ways – highs and lows, battling through adversity, BRATs galore , mud everywhere, and amazing unwavering team spirit. Thank you all!


Martin Ludford

On 05 February 2018 In Running News

Saturday 3rd Feb saw the cream of British student athletes assemble on the outskirts of Uxbridge for the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Cross Country Champs.

Two BRATs lined up in the ladies race of 6.5km with over seven hundred other starters, The two laps were already boggy and heavy going, but continual rain on the day meant the course very quickly got churned up and became even heavier going.

Anne Kenchington running for Manchester finished in an impressive 67th place. Anne has only just returned to training after a lengthy lay off and took the opportunity to compete in her last BUCS XC before heading into her finals for her Geography degree - good luck Anne.

Performance of the day went to Molly Browne running for Coventry who finished in a superb 20th with most of the top ten having international representations already under their belts. Molly is in the first year of her Ph.D. so plenty to look forward to in coming years.

The quality of the race this year was summed up by Athletics Weekly

"The women’s race was also a high-quality affair and possibly the best ever according to some observers."

"The high quality was illustrated by National and Inter-Counties winner and Commonwealth Games-bound Jess Judd finishing fifth."

The ladies race was won by Harriet Knowles-Jones running for Manchester.

The men's race was won by Alex Yee running for Leeds Beckett. Alex can be seen below taking a spill at the river crossing.


On 04 February 2018 In Running News



Nathan and Kevin resized

In our two previous pieces in our Marathon Monday Series, we have introduced the series and have discussed the performance triangle and how the BRAT Club Sessions can be used for marathon training. However, it’s not all about the training and race strategies. Over the next couple of weeks we will periodically introduce you to runners from the club who are aiming for a spring marathon. If you want to be included let us know on Facebook or speak to one of the coaches.

You may know that the club has 2 slots at the London Marathon, which are allocated annually through an application process in the autumn, after those who were successful in the ballot have received their places. For the 2018 edition of the London Marathon, the club places have been allocated to Kevin Oakes and Nathan Smith. Here they are enjoying a little break on their long run last weekend. 


Today, you’ll hear a bit more from Nathan about his motivation and goals, his training as well as his favourite treats.


Nathan Smith

NathanI'm Nathan Smith, 39 years old. I'm married to my wife Zoe and have two children: Madeleine (11) and Leo (8). I'm an Applications Engineer for a packaging company.

What is your sporting back ground?

I have always been active throughout my life. When I was young I played football, tennis and enjoyed running. I took part in some XC runs for my school. I used to spend hours out on my bike with my friends. Sport dried up in my 20's and when I hit 30 my friend challenged me to do an Aquathlon. I entered with only 4 weeks to train left and knuckled down. I started swimming twice a week and started running. As each week went by I could feel myself getting fitter and faster and I also began to lose weight. I completed my first Aquathlon in 43 mins at Friary Grange (formerly the 3 Spires event). Spurred on by my first experience I went on to complete 6 Aquathlons in 6 months. I have never looked back since. Exercise is a major part of my life.

What is your goal for the Virgin London Marathon?

My first goal is to finish. This is new territory for me as it’s my first marathon. I want this journey to teach me something new. I hope to learn how to train smart without getting injured, that is my biggest fear. I'm hoping to go under 3hr 30min. My half marathon PB is 1:29:34, so I doubled it and added half an hour. I think that is a fair estimate.

What does your weekly training look like?

At the moment, I'm following the VLM training plan. I use it as a guide. I'm trying to put rest days between runs, because I was getting niggles when doing consecutive days of running. At the moment, its working for me, but as the event draws closer I will start adding extra days. I'm not afraid to have 1 week rest if I feel it’s required. There is no point in over doing it and not making it to the start line.





My current weekly training looks something like this:

Saturday: Long Run

Sun: 5k easy recovery Run

Mon: Rest

Tue: 1 hour steady

Wed: Rest

Thu: Speed (track)

Fri: Rest


Have you got a preferred running time and why?

I will run at any time. I love being out there!


Any quirky habits when running?

Zoe got me Bose Sports Bluetooth ear phones for Christmas, they have been great for the long runs. I have a play list which consists of 90's indie, old skool hip hop, funk and soul. I can share the spotify link if anybody likes the sound of it!


What’s the best and worst part of running?

Best part: Sense of achievement, sorts your head out if you've had a bad day.

Worst Part: Having a bad race, not achieving what you went out for!


What do you think about when you are running?

I think about the current when I'm running. If I'm climbing a hill, I'm thinking about getting to the top; if I'm on a flat I'm thinking about getting a move on; if I'm running off road I'm looking at the terrain so I don’t trip up. It’s a good way to take your head away from the day to day hassles, I think. That’s why running is good for your mental health.


What are your favourite pre-race meal and postrace treat?

Pre race:  Peanut butter and jam on toast or porridge with banana

Post race: Chinese take-away


Why are you doing this, what motivates you?

It’s personal really. I've done lots of challenges since I found multi-sports in 2008. Due to injuries I've never really considered marathons but over the last year I have felt the need to complete a marathon. London is the only one for me, I tried and failed in the main ballot. I'm extremely grateful to the BRAT club for giving me this opportunity. I want this experience to improve me as a runner. I'm hoping the mileage and learning to train smarter will push me towards a sub-40 mins 10k and sub- 19 mins 5k. I have come close with both but I think my endurance has let me down. I'm hoping the marathon mileage will put that right! (after London of course) 


On 21 January 2018 In Running News

Welcome back to Marathon Monday!

First of all, well done. You’ve committed to what is, for many people, a lifetime experience. A real test of your physical and mental strength. Once you cross the finish line, you’ll feel a sense of euphoria that’s hard to match – but you have to get there first.

There are many training plans out there, but there is no "best" plan that will work for everyone. Each runner has different needs, a different starting point, and most importantly, different goals. As different as the plans are, they are all trying to address the three core elements of what is known as the "Performance Triangle": the triade of Training, Nutrition and Recovery. 

Performance Triangle

Today, we will address the first part of the triangle, Trianing, and specifically, how you can use the sessions the BRAT Club offers to achieve particular training goals. 

Upping your game and how to use BRAT sessions for marathon training

Completing a mix of sessions will keep marathon training both engaging and enjoyable - and it just so happens that BRAT sessions can be tailored for marathon training. Combine a variety of efforts, but make sure that you don't do all of them - too many hard sessions are a route to injury. If you need any advice about how best to mix and match the sessions, please speak to our qualified coaches.

Ultimately, the marathon is an aerobic activity, that is you are breathing in sufficient oxygen to produce energy to perform a task (as opposed to anaerobic activity where you are producing lactic acid). So your marathon training will look to build your aerobic system, through for instance your long runs. However, improving your running economy is also important. This is where speed and interval sessions come into play. Over time your training will progress (e.g. long runs get longer), but it also needs to be specific. There is no need to work on your 100m sprint speed when you are trying to run a marathon.

When you are using BRAT sessions to work on your running economy, you should be working at the upper end of your aerobic system. You will variously find this described as your threshold pace, 80-85% of your HR max, Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) of 7-8 out of 10 or 4 out of 5, and sometimes your 10k pace. Your long, slow run should be truly slow as this is where you are training your body to oxygenate your blood. You should be able to talk comfortably. Ideally, you want to build in some hill running for leg strength and work towards a longer midweek run to add additional mileage later on in your programme. 

BRATRun-7491 980 300


So how can you use the BRAT sessions to achieve this potent mix of performance enhancing sessions?

  • Monday Steady Run - You can either work at an easy effort (4-5/10 RPE) for mileage or 2-3/10 RPE for recovery, or push yourself harder by moving up a group so that it becomes Marathon Pace (6 RPE) or even Threshold / Tempo (7 RPE). Speak to your Monday Run Leaders who will help you pick the right groups.
  • Tuesday / Thursday track sessions - A great way of benchmarking your performance, but also to learn pacing. These are shorter and often quite hard sessions and should be worked as such. It's a heady mix of hill reps and medium to longer intervals on the road and the track (check with Rich Carney, what the schedule is). The importance is to be consistent with your repetitions. Make sure that you don't do too many of these sessions, as they are well above Marathon Pace, will fatigue you, and could lead to injury if you overdo it.
  • Wednesday Intervals - Dipping in and out threshold (8 RPE) for 30-40min sustained effort will tax you and will be an opportunity to work hard with others.
  • Saturday Park Run / Hill Repetitions - A combination of ParkRun (5k time trial) and hill repetitions/ off road runs will build your stamina. You can also "do the double" and complete both sessions to get used to the changes in pace once you have build up adequate mileage.
  • Sunday Long Run - Although no planned BRAT session, Sunday is perfect for your long run. This should be at an easy pace, conversational and social (if you have those of a similar pace to run with). Progress by no more than 10% distance or time each week. If you are looking at >4 hours for the marathon, stop once you have run for 3.5 hours as you need to be fresh for the next weeks sessions so post training recovery is vital. 

All of these sessions, in any combination will help build your fitness towards your marathon goals. What should also be remembered is the importance of NOT training. Rest days and recovery are just as important as the actual training. We will cover R&R in a future article.

Hopefully this has given you a quick overview of some areas of marathon training. What sessions do you do? How do you find them? What suggestions or plans are you following on your route to the marathon?

On 15 January 2018 In Running News

Nathan SmithKevin Oakes 2Welcome to the first articlew in our new series "Marathon Monday". Every fortnight you can read an article leading up to spring marathon season including Brighton / Milton Keynes / Manchester and "the Big One" the Virgin London Marathon on 22nd April.


Over the next few months we are going to cover a range of topics including training / nutrition / race psychology as well as a VLM course preview for both participants and spectators.


We have two BRAT's, Nathan Smith and Kevin Oakes, who were lucky enough to be allocated the clubs places for the Virgin London Marathon. We are looking forward to hearing from both as to how their training is going, the highs and the lows as well as understanding a bit more about why they are undertaking this challenge.


So, which other BRAT's are planning on taking part in a spring marathon in 2018? What are your hopes and aspirations? First Timer? Looking to complete or compete? Do you have a target whether its raising money for charity or achieving a personal best?


Let us know by replying to this post below or email  us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that we can get in touch and find out a bit more about you and let all of your club mates know about your targets and goals.

On 10 November 2017 In Running News

Do you run? Come and run cross country for BRAT this season! It’s as simple as that.


Why on earth would I want to do that? Isn’t that used as punishment at school?

  • Races are free: BRAT covers the entry costs for all team members.
  • It’s genuinely fun to do something as a club and be part of a team.
  • It really doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow, old or young. No, really.
  • It’s great for your running, pretty much whatever speed, distance and surfaces comprise your normal territory.
  • You don’t have to commit to lots of events: even if you just take part in just one race over the whole season you’ll be welcome.
  • There’s usually cake.

Ok, the cake convinced me. What do I need to do?

  • Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Ladies team) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Men's team) to be added to the mailing list.
  • Check the 2017-18 dates and put any suitable ones in your calendar.
  • Make sure you have some shoes that won’t let you down in *whispers* mud (cross country spikes, fell or trail shoes). It can be muddy!
  • Make sure you have or can borrow a BRAT club vest. As these are club events, these are compulsory kit (but you can wear longer sleeves underneath it as needed).

How far do I have to slog through this maybe mud?


Mud levels vary: some courses can be disappointingly dry.

Anyway, the distances also vary and there’s usually a course map issued beforehand that says how far it will be, but changes on the day can happen (generally to shorten!).

Most of the women’s races are around 6km and the men’s 10km. For added excitement, there aren’t any mile or kilometre markers on the courses.


How the does it all work?


You don’t need to know this, you just need to turn up and run. However…

Women, men and juniors have separate races. Sometimes they are on the same day at the same location with different start times (which is nice because we get to support each other), sometimes they are apart.


The scoring for cross country works on runners’ finishing positions. If in a particular category the first four (women's) / six (men's) team members to finish “count”, their finishing positions will be added together – for example if one BRAT came 3rd, the next was 10th, the next 15th and the next 37th the team score would be 65. The team with the lowest score wins.

Four races are part of a league, so the totals are kept across the season.


Over 35s (‘masters’) run in the same race as the seniors, they can score for both the senior team and the masters team. The masters positions are scored separately, so if a BRAT over 35 is 20th overall but 5th of the over 35s, the 5 would go towards the masters team score.


Do I need special kit?


Well, it would be tricky to run the courses in road running shoes: ideally you need a good grip. Many people wear cross country spikes which are a lightweight shoe into which you can screw metal spikes of different lengths (according to the amount of mud). Other people run in trail shoes or fell running shoes. If you have existing off road shoes, you will be fine to use those.


The other thing that you must own or borrow is a lovely BRAT club vest: this is mandatory kit in the rules of all the races. If it’s chilly and you like to have more layers you can wear it over other things. You can’t wear any other type of BRAT kit instead; it has to be the official club vest.


Depending on your personal preference you’ll want shorts, capris or leggings. If you do go for full-length be aware that the bottoms will get wet and muddy on some courses.

A waterproof shoe with a decent grip is handy for the walk from the car park to the race, wellies work well too. And some warm layers for before and afterwards.


The captain/s will have your number and some safety pins for the first race. If you do more than one of the four league races, you’ll need to keep hold of your number and bring it next time. Other races all have individual numbers.


Anything else I need to know?

  • You need to be a current BRAT and have us as your first claim club.
  • Unlike big city races they don’t give out any water or goody bags.
  • Lifts can usually be arranged so don't worry if you don't drive.
  • The teams usually have a small tent or gazebo for bag storage, but leave valuables somewhere safer if you can.
  • It’s brilliant to have people cheering us along if any friends or family want to watch.
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