Cherry juice and recovery

April 18, 2010

After dosing up on beetroot juice before a race to improve endurance, it now seems that distance runners benefit from drinking cherry juice to aid recovery.

One study by the University of Vermont  claims:

There was a significant difference in the degree of muscle strength loss between those drinking the cherry juice blend and those taking the placebo juice. This fell by 22 percentage points in those drinking the placebo juice, but only by four percentage points in those drinking cherry juice. Muscle strength had slightly improved after 96 hours in those drinking cherry juice. The degree of soreness differed little between the two groups, but the average pain score was significantly less in those drinking cherry juice. Average pain scores came in at 3.2 for those drinking the placebo juice and 2.4 for those drinking cherry juice. Pain also peaked at 24 hours for those drinking cherry juice, but continued to increase for those on the placebo juice for the subsequent 48 hours.

University of Vermont. “Cherry Juice May Prevent Muscle Damage Pain.” (ScienceDaily23 June 2006. 18 April 2010 <;).

Another more recent experiment conducted by the School of Psychology and Sports Sciences at the Northumbria University confirms the beneficial effects of cherry juice:

In the investigation, 20 marathon runners drank either a tart cherry blend juice or a placebo drink twice a day for five days before taking part in the London Marathon and for two days afterwards.

The findings indicated that the group who drank the cherry juice recovered their strength more rapidly than the control group over the 48-hour period following the marathon. Inflammation was also reduced in the cherry juice group, as was oxidative stress, a potentially damaging response that can be caused by strenuous physical activity, particularly long distance endurance exercise.

Northumbria University. “Marathon Runners Should Pick Cherries for Speedy Recovery.”ScienceDaily 3 April 2010. 18 April 2010 <;.

The scientifically minded can find the abstract to the original article here.


Rotterdam, a week later

April 17, 2010

Thinking of a group of pals who wanted to run in Vienna tomorrow but cannot because of another Icelandic calamity, it is time to report on the Rotterdam marathon which I ran last week.

First the Expo. That was a bit of a disappointment. it was not very big for a start and the official merchandise stand had run out of stock quite fast. I had intended to buy a shirt but couldn’t.

Next the weather. Race day was a little chillier and certainly windier than forecast. The temperature was in fact perfectly fine once the race started but we would not have missed the gusts of wind earlier in the race. In the end, it did not matter because overall the conditions were pretty good.

Then the race. I had very high expectations of the organisation and frankly I was a rather disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, there were no serious failings. It is just that the start was a bit chaotic and some of the streets in which we ran were too narrow for the mass of runners. Add in the fact that  some of the local runners loved to barge and push, you can easily imagine the somewhat tense atmosphere for the first 10 kms.

If I have one more substantial complaint it is about the distribution of the water stations. The organisers were simply too parsimonious with the water in my opinion. In the second half of the race, water and electrolyte drinks were distributed at the same station, roughly every five kms. A far better system was the one used in Athens – where such matters were generally much better managed anyway – with alternate water and energy drinks every 2.5 kms. There were times when I felt really thirsty in Rotterdam and saw the approach of the water stations with considerable relief.

On the whole, though, it is a good marathon which attracts supportive crowds and many bands and musicians line the way. The course is generally flat but once or twice I was surprised by an incline!

If you really want to know, yes, I achieved another personal best and got round in 3:30:54. Thats about three minutes less than my time in Barcelona. With hindsight, I wonder whether I had allowed myself to recover well enough from Barcelona and had instead been too keen to train during the two races. It is difficult to tell as I felt pretty good during the whole of the race in Rotterdam. Next time, I’ll err on the side of more recovery.

Posted by Xavier.

Rotterdam, the night before

April 10, 2010

It seems it was only yesterday that I was running in Barcelona…. Now I’m in Rotterdam. I had chosen the Rotterdam marathon because it is a fast, flat course and thus ideal for my quest for a Boston qualifying time. As I got that in Barcelona, there’s no pressure to run particularly fast tomorrow. I’ll just take it as it comes and run at the pace I feel is a good one.

The Science of Sport blog, meanwhile, has an excellent article on the Rotterdam marathon, on how it is indeed a fast course, fast enough to rival the very big races like Berlin, Chicago or London.

The race starts quite late, at 11 am, so it will be good to lie in a bit.

Full race report to follow!

Posted by Xavier

Barcelona marathon….. Boston bound

March 9, 2010

Barcelona rather unexpectedly turns out to be on the road to Boston.

That’s a little cryptic so let me explain. I ran the Barcelona marathon on Sunday. A fine race, 12000 and more runners from all over the world: lots of runners from France, plenty from Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Poland, South Africa, Greece, Japan, the United Kingdom…. And those are just the national groups I spotted. I think I caught sight of Stefaan Engels, the 365 marathon man, in the distance.

The route was quite scenic, taking us past the Sagrada Familia, for example. There were some hills lurking along the way too. Not necessarily very steep climbs but the sort of inclines that don’t feel like much at first but after a kilometer tend to sap both strength and morale. It was quite chilly too at first but as the morning wore on the temperature seemed about right.

As for me, I broke my record and managed to do it in 3:33 ! So that’s a qualifying time for Boston 2011. I had not expected to manage it on this occasion as I had rather intended to use Barcelona as a training run in preparation for Rotterdam. The Rotterdam marathon takes place in early April and is reputed to be a flat and smooth as a billiard table.

By the way, the expo in Barcelona was rather good and I could not resist buying a pair of Newton running shoes. I’ll write more about those another day when I’ve actually tried them on.

Posted by Xavier

Beetroot Juice and Endurance

February 21, 2010

This sounds too good to be true !

Research at the University of Exeter’s School of Sport Health and Science shows that drinking 500 ml of fresh beetroot juice for six days can lead to an increase of up to 16% in the endurance of cyclists. Here’s a link to the University’s own summary.

Here’s one report that summarises those findings. And here’s a link to the abstract published in the Journal of Applied Physiology for the more technically minded.

It is unclear to me whether trained athletes get a similar boost in endurance and how the consumption of juice can improve training in the long term. Anyway, given that drinking beetroot juice probably has few deleterious side effects, I’ll be imbibing it in industrial quantities before my next marathon (Barcelona, in two weeks). Who knows, it may help !

Posted by Xavier

Jon’s (Triathlon) Racing Blog

February 17, 2010

I just came across this new blog called “Jon’s Racing Blog” written by a triathlete, Jonathon Umlor.

Read the whole of the first post. It is rewarding to do so and will inspire you, I’m sure.

I hope Jon will continue with regular posts to keep us informed of his progress.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, no, I have really no intention of attempting a triathlon. I do admire triathletes but running is difficult enough for me…. As for swimming in dark, satanic waters, that is really not my idea of weekend fun. A duathlon, on the other hand …..

Posted by Xavier

Barefoot Running, Again and Vibrams

February 17, 2010

There’s a lot more debate about barefoot running. Now Harvard University is getting in on the act in a big way.

Now here’s a link to a terrific site at the Skeletal Bio Lab, Harvard University.

It is a very informative site indeed with lots of videos of different foot strikes. Having looked at it a bit, the site does not conclude that barefoot running is necessarily good for you. Be careful to read the “Training Tips” section !

As for my own efforts, I ran a complete  – rather punishing – interval session wearing my Vibram Fivefingers. I survived to tell the story, obviously ! I suffered no particular injury or strain and felt perfectly alright the next day. The intervals did not feel any easier though.

Posted by Xavier

Running Keeps Your Cells Young

January 28, 2010

A recent New York Times article confirms what all we runners feel instinctively and observe empirically : running is good for you and keeps you young and fit.

The point of the article is that it describes recent extensive scientific research conducted at Saarland University in Germany that concludes definitively that running – and indeed any kind of vigorous exercise – has a marked and dramatic effect on cell rejuvenation.

What is striking with the results of this research is the anti-ageing effect of running at the molecular level.

Here’s a slightly longer and more technical article about the research in question. And here’s a link to a similar but much more technical article by an American researcher, T.J. LaRocca, from the University of Colorado.

Read the whole article (it is not long). Then go for a run.

Core and resistance training

January 11, 2010

I’ve mentioned this before and it is worth repeating: running is good but running with cross-training is even better.

In the last few weeks, I’ve found a number of good sites that suggest worthwhile exercises to strengthen the core and to increase resistance.

This one containing descriptions of core and resistance exercises, by an Australian coach called Amelia Burton, is clear and well explained. The other parts of her website are well worth looking at too.

Another excellent site is one by Jessi Stensland, a professional triathlete from the United States. Her own site is full of interesting training tips. She is especially keen on posture and stability exercises and links to a site called “Core Performance“. In particular, she recommends this article containing ten training tips.

One interval training programme she recommends but which seems really quite tough and looks like a variation on the Billat intervals I’m keen on. Have a look at Jessi’s post here (you’ll need to scroll down a little).  Look out because the rest intervals get shorter, unlike with Billat intervals where they remain constant. Try it out if you are fit (but don’t if you are not).

Posted by Xavier

365 marathons in 365 days!

January 4, 2010

No, no, no ! I’m not planning to do that at all. But it is what a Belgian ultra-mega-hyper endurance athlete called Stefaan Engels plans to do in 2010.

No kidding. 365 marathons in 365 days. He’s started already and finished four consecutive marathons since 1st January 2010. Have a look at his website – MarathonMan365 – which, alas, is only in Flemish. But you’ll get the gist ! Here’s a link to a short article in French.

If he keeps it up until 22 February he will have broken the current world record apparently. That stands at 52 marathons in 52 consecutive days in 2009 and is held by the Japanese runner Akinori Kusuda who was 65 years old when he accomplished that.

Stefaan Engels website’s subtitle “Feel Good Tour” seems a bit incongruous to me. I don’t think I’d feel too great after running marathons on four consecutive days in the cold which is currently gripping Belgium, especially with the prospect of 361 more and no days off.

Frankly, I’m a bit lost for words. Anyway, all the best, Stefaan !

Posted by Xavier.

(Not sure how to categorise this post given my reluctance to create a “nuts” category, so I’ll leave it as “uncategorized”, in the sense of “extraordinary”).