Sunday, 04 March 2018 21:18

Marathon Monday: Meet the Runners Part 2

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.

Published in Running News
Sunday, 18 February 2018 16:42

Marathon Monday: Food is your friend

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!

Published in Running News
Sunday, 04 February 2018 22:51

Marathon Monday: Meet the Runners



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) 


Published in Running News
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