Saturday, 18 April 2009

Dr Ron Hill MBE

When I was 10 years old, I ran for my local running club, Sutton Harriers. One of the other kids there had a set of waterproof warm-up kit, made by Ron Hill Sports. The maroon and grey outfit looked fantastic, and I was sure that my life would be complete once I owned some similar kit. You can therefore imagine how thrilled I was when a large envelope arrived for me this week, containing a signed print from Dr Ron Hill himself. It's a rare picture of Dr Ron winning the 1969 Maxol Manchester Marathon. The inscription reads: "To Duncan, Best of luck in London '09, Dr Ron Hill". I was speechless – Dr Ron Hill is a genuine living legend. Arguably the first person to ever run a marathon in less than 2 hours 10 minutes (less than 5 minute miles for the entire 26.2 miles), he represented Great Britain at the Tokyo, Mexico and Munich Olympics, held world records over 4 different distances, and has run every single day since December 1964. Dr Ron founded the ground-breaking athletics kit brands, Ron Hill Sports, and subsequently Hilly, which is one of fivemarathons’ principal supporters (see

I am delighted to announce that Dr Ron will be joining us at fivemarathons’ Road To London party this Tuesday, 21 April 2009, at The Press Club in Manchester. Final arrangements are now in place for the party. The Press Club has kindly agreed to open at 6pm, with free red and white wine for the first 100 guests. The one and only Tim Hayes will be our compere for the evening, introducing entertainment from top Manchester DJ, Marco Giannini ( and a great karaoke act. Volunteering to sing costs only £2, while, more interestingly, nominating someone else to sing costs just £5!

I hope you can join us for what will be a great evening, with all monies raised going to Christies and Macmillan. To pre-purchase your ticket, simply e-mail Kirsten ( Your name will be added to the guest list and your ticket will cost just £7 (tickets purchased on the door will be £10).

My colleagues, Ayse Ince and Stephen Buckton, will also be running in this year’s London Marathon and Pannone has over 130 runners in the Great Manchester Run, many of whom will be at The Press Club on Tuesday. While a night on the town may not seem like ideal preparation for a big race, there’ll be a wealth of running talent and support on hand: as well as Dr Ron Hill, there’ll be guests from Hilly Running Equipment (, Harris & Ross sports physiotherapists ( and Marc Laithwaite and Joanna Lee from The Endurance Coach (

As part of my final preparations for London, I’ve spent time this week at both Harris & Ross' clinic and The Endurance Coach’s testing facility. On Wednesday, H&R’s Alan Raw continued his good work on my niggling piriformis issue and the plantar fasciitis, which I appear to have developed in my right foot. The plantar fasciitis is potentially serious and, if left untreated, could stop me running. It’s a painful inflammation of the plantar fascia, which supports the arch of the foot. As well as massage and manipulation, Alan has developed a series of exercises to help cure the problem. It’s likely that the piriformis issue is related to the over-pronation in my running gait, which H&R’s Josh Cheng detected. In turn, the over-pronation is likely to be the major cause of the plantar fasciitis. It’s precisely these issues which make Harris & Ross’ support so invaluable in keeping me on the road for the fivemarathons.

Alan did mention that, if the plantar fasciitis doesn’t respond properly to the exercises and the massage / manipulation, we could consider acupuncture. Funnily enough, I can feel it getting better already! Alan has suggested that I take the anti inflammatory, Voltarol, for the marathon, to ensure that the plantar fascia doesn't become a problem during the race. After London, there's three months until the San Francisco Marathon, which gives Alan plenty of time to get to work.

On Friday, I was at The Endurance Coach for the tests I mentioned in last week’s blog. As well as testing my heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels, I took my first VO2 max test. I was pretty pleased with the results: resting heart rate of 52 beats per minutes (72 bpm is normal) and VO2 max of 58.2 (the bands are Very Poor(<35.3), Poor (35.3 – 38.9), Fair (38.9 – 42.4), Good (42.4 – 46.8), Excellent (46.8 – 52.5), Superior (>52.5)). Amazingly, my VO2 max is better than Paula Radcliffe’s. The difference is, her economy is far, far better than mine, which means that she can work extremely hard without ever getting anywhere near her VO2 max.

The mechanics of the VO2 test is interesting (honestly). While running progressively harder on a treadmill, you wear a mask, which measures your breathing and the oxygen / carbon dioxide concentration of the inhaled and exhaled air. VO2 max is reached when your oxygen consumption remains at a steady rate despite the increased workload. To increase the workload, the speed of the treadmill is increased each minute by one kilometre per hour, up to 14 k/ph, after which the incline of the treadmill gets higher and higher until you reach your VO2 max. VO2 max is closely related to the point at which you reach your anaerobic threshold (the point at which you can’t absorb any additional oxygen). At your anaerobic threshold, your breathing increases sharply. At first, this appears strange – if you can’t absorb any additional oxygen, why are you breathing harder? My limited grasp on the science is this: your breathing rate is dictated by the amount of carbon dioxide you need to expel, not the amount of oxygen you need to take onboard; when you reach your anaerobic limit, you need more oxygen than you can absorb and, as a result, your body starts to produce lactic acid; the lactic acid reacts with the bicarbonates in the bloodstream, which creates excess carbon dioxide; to expel the excess carbon dioxide, your breathing gets harder and harder. At the end of test, I was breathing very hard, and it was quite obvious when it was time to stop!

Laith and I have had some initial discussions about upping the intensity of my training regime after London, so it looks like I’ve got plenty more hard work to come. For now, we’re working on core stability exercises to try to eliminate the causes of my ongoing piriformis issue.

Finally, many thanks to Kirsten, Claire Smith, Tim Hayes, Lucy Dawson, Kyle Blackburn and Ally Dacey who have worked really hard to ensure that this week’s party is a big success. Good luck to Ayse and Stephen in Sunday’s marathon - they’ll be showered and in the pub by the time I’m crossing the finish line!

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
Berlin, 20 September 2009
New York, 1 November 2009

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 20 April 2009 Rest
Tuesday, 21 April 2009 5 miles steady, plus 6 x 1 min efforts / Fivemarathons Party
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 Rest or 2 – 3 miles easy
Thursday, 23 April 2009 20 mins easy
Friday, 24 April 2009 Rest / travel to London
Saturday, 25 April 2009 15 mins jog
Sunday, 26 April 2009 London Marathon

Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see

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Come to the fivemarathons "Road to London" party on 21 April 2009 at The Press Club, 2-10 St. Johns House, Queen Street, Manchester, M2 5JB.

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NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004