Inspired by Swedish ÖTILLÖ races, the fast-growing sport Swimrun is sweeping the globe and the UK is in on the action. After marshalling at the inaugural Breca Buttermere, our Online Ed Rhalou reports back.

Originally posted on Runner’s World


Swimrun is about to take the UK by storm and following the success of its inaugural race, adventure-seekers will be pleased to hear that Breca Swimrun is returning to the Lake District in 2016.

Inspired by the Swedish ÖTILLÖ race, which means Island-to-Island, participants run and swim over consecutive legs in pairs (you have to be within 50m of each other the whole time), so the experience is shared and teamwork plays an integral role in success. Together participants must navigate rocky trails, choppy waters and extreme temperatures and all in a wetsuit and trainers.

One of the fastest-growing endurance sports in the world, even Pippa Middleton is in on the action. To celebrate her 32nd birthday, the royal sister-in-law participated in the ÖTILLÖ 2015 Swimrun Championships in Sweden on Monday. She told Reuters that she was ‘taken by the idea of competing in the stunning surroundings’ and that it was an ‘unusual and unique event’.

Breca Buttermere promises to be no less unique, as it takes place in one of the UK’s most stunning and rugged areas of natural beauty – the Western Fells of the Lake District. Over 17 consecutive legs, teams of two complete a total of 6K of lake swimming and 38K of trail running, including 1,900m of vertical ascent over the infamous Honister Pass.

Having marshalled at the inaugural event, I can confirm that this incredible new sport is one to watch out for. The Buttermere landscape is utterly sublime and the brutal fells provided a particularly unique challenge for the swim-runners.

Aside from the beautiful course, the aspect of the race that really appealed to me was the idea of alternating different muscle groups, essentially switching from legs in the running section to arms in the swim (small floats are allowed to ease to reduce the impact on the legs) over constantly changing terrain. By the end of the event the participants were beaming but walking like drunken sailors! Participating in pairs also added a race camaraderie which I’ve never seen in an event before. The teams were really supporting each other and urging their partners on; it was magical to watch.

‘Sharing the pain, suffering and elation with a teammate is what makes Swimrun so special,’ says Breca Race Director Ben de Rivaz. ‘It is not all about the individual, it is about working together with a friend and with the other teams on the course. This creates a unique atmosphere at these events.’

‘Breca Buttermere 2016 is going to be a bigger event with a few new surprises!’ added Ben.

Registration for the 2016 event is now open. Entries are limited to 50 teams of two. Click here for details.

If you wake up on race day feeling below par, should you go ahead and run, risking a DNF (did not finish), or listen to your body and DNS (did not start)?

Originally posted on Runner’s World


Two weeks ago I was faced with a conundrum. I woke up the morning before marathon day with a stinking cold. I did not feel remotely like running. In fact I wanted to curl up and die. As the day wore on my cold got worse and I considered dropping out. But then I decided to run anyway.

Why? Because I have faced this problem in the past, with surprising results. Four years ago, against my better judgment, I ran a half marathon with a horrible cold and still managed to achieve a PB. That race is still my fastest half marathon to date. I confess I don’t recall anything about the race. All I remember is approaching the start line convinced I was going to die and then running across the finish line one hour and 59 minutes later feeling like a superhero. The snot, pain and prolonged recovery have all faded with time and I have no regrets about starting it.

Two Sundays ago I applied this twisted logic once again and ran a marathon with a head cold. Sadly I didn’t get a PB; in fact I felt absolutely dreadful for a large percentage of the day! But I still managed to finish the race, albeit slowly. I actually attempted to drop out at the halfway point, until a kind medic advised me that finishing the race was quicker than waiting for the sweeper bus.

Hoping I could beat the cold and still run when I felt below par backfired. But despite a rather rough marathon day, a personal worst finishing time and extending my cold for at least a week, I do have the post-race smug glow that only a shiny new medal provides.

Long distance runners invest a lot of time and effort into our favourite sport. If we’ve trained for months, paid for race entry and travelled to participate in a race, dropping out can be a huge blow. But if participating risks your health (and your PB dreams) it might not be worth putting yourself through it. If you’re feeling less than fantastic in the lead up to a race, when is it OK to risk it and when should you hang up your trainers and admit defeat?

I put the question to Twitter and my running friends were divided on the subject.

‘It depends on the severity of the illness. Sometimes you feel fine once you start and you would have regretted not giving it a go!’ says @thisistc.

‘If you start a race remember the impact you have on race organisers and volunteers too,’ says @ledavies.

Dr Jenna Burton from Pall Mall Medical is on the fence. ‘When you are full of the common cold (acute rhinitis) it is not as straightforward as a simple yes, no answer to whether you should take a break from your training schedule,’ she says. ‘In one sense, the endorphin rush associated with exercise can help gear up your immune system and make you feel more alive and alert. Plus activating deep breathing during cardiovascular exercise can help free the lungs of infected mucus, reducing the risk of a secondary chest infection; a much more serious pathology of the respiratory tract.’

The concern is, you may think you’re fit to run, but exercising can damage your health. ‘More commonly, the endorphin rush hits, leaving a sense of euphoria that one feels better for having exercised,’ Dr Burton added. ‘However, the immune system is distracted from fighting illness and energy used during exertion is diverted from focusing on treating infection. The initial high, may result in a resounding low.’

Although it is tempting to attempt to ‘get through’ the race at all odds, if you’re really unwell it is not worth putting your health at severe risk. ‘Be realistic,’ says Dr Burton. ‘If you have diarrhoea, vomiting or a fever, do not compete. These will cause the body to lose significant amounts of water and salts, placing you at risk of heart arrhythmias (unusual heart rhythms) and collapse. Likewise, if you feel too unwell to race, you likely are. Seek a medical expert for a second opinion if you have concerns.’

Greg Whyte OBE, physical activity expert and Fitbit ambassador, is firmly in camp DNS. ‘There is very little to be gained from a DNF both physiologically or psychologically,’ he says. ‘In contrast, a DNS brings control of your destiny back into your hands. It can be difficult to withdraw from a race on the day but it may provide the optimal strategy for your physical and mental health.’

Whyte recommends factoring poor health into your race strategy. ‘The key is to plan ahead,’ he says. ‘You should have an ‘If-Then’ plan in which ‘If’ you wake up on the morning of a race feeling under the weather, ‘Then’ you will withdraw from the race and structure a return to run plan based on your symptoms and recovery. Taking this approach avoids the damage associated with a poor race or a DNF, and speeds your recovery to race another day.’

Two weeks after race day I can confirm that running a marathon with a cold wasn’t my brightest idea and I probably should have gone for a DNS. But my half marathon PB still remains and I have no regrets about running that race.

What should you if you wake up on race day feeling less than 100 per cent and you’re not sure if it’s pre-race paranoia or ill health? We ask Dr Jenna Burton for her top four tips for powering on through.

  1. Feed the cold, starve the fever; yes the age old saying stands true here. Provide your body the night and morning before the race with vital nutrients to assist with your immune system. Give it complex carbohydrates the evening before – wholewheat bread or potatoes, along with vitamin-packed vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. Sleep well for at least eight hours. The morning of the race, take simple sugars, such as those found in starchy fruits like bananas and berries. These will not cure your illness, but they should give you the very best chance to eliminate as much of the infection as possible, in order to attend the race.
  2. Appreciating that this is ‘race’ day and you are likely looking for a PB, start off slow. Being at less than 100 per cent full health and exerting yourself physically is a strain and shock to the body. Allow it to warm up slowly. On starting you will gauge a) whether it is going to be possible to continue and b) when the endorphins start to hit, whether it will spur you on enough to the end. Listen to your body: it is your vehicle for finishing the race.
  3. Hydrate. Even without a temperature, your body will be more active than usual. This needs water to keep it cool and hence managing your temperature, plus providing a medium for the necessary chemical reactions to take place. Hydrate with plenty of water and iso salts, as found in many sports drinks.
  4. After the race, take a much needed rest. Do not expect your body to perform at its usual level. Go home and save the celebrations until later.

Do you have a DNF/DNS story to share? Tweet us @RunnersWorldUK using the hashtag #DNSorDNF.


Time for a new challenge? Fling yourself into the unknown with wild abandon and get drenched, electrocuted and run over for the fun of it at one of the top 6 craziest UK obstacle course races.

Originally posted on Runner’s World


Once you’ve ran your speediest 10K PB and devoted a chunk of your life to a marathon, where else is there to go with your running? Down and dirty of course! Check out the top ten craziest obstacle races in the UK and prepare to get muddy. The good news is obstacle and adventure races cater to all fitness levels and the onus is on survival over speed, so they’re the perfect antidote to traditional road races if your training needs a kick up the butt. Check out the wettest, muddiest and most electrifying events the UK has to offer.

1. Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest

Location: Cardiff, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Manchester and London

Date: September to November


Uniquely, Survival of the Fittest takes place in urban settings, so you can dance the tango on hot coals within walking distance of a tube stop. A fast-paced but no less ferocious obstacle course experience, Survival of the Fittest is the ultimate race for city-dwellers desperate to let off some steam and torture themselves in public. The bonus of the inner city setting is you get to try really unique urban obstacles including gigantic balls, rigging and ‘drunken monkeys’. We’re not entirely sure what any of this means, but you’re guaranteed to have a good time, provided you survive to tell the tale.

2. Zombie Evacuation

Location: UK-wide

Date: October


If run-of-the-mill obstacle courses just aren’t cutting the mustard and the idea of literally running for your life while scaling muddy challenges sounds more appealing, look no further than Zombie Evacuation. Modelled on modern day speedy zombies, the flesh-eating undead will chase you screaming around a 5K course while you run faster than you ever thought possible and attempt a few challenges along the way. For health and safety reasons you’re not allowed to fight back, so don’t get carried away and pack your Uzi. But you get three chances to survive the jaws of the undead, so unless you stand around too long marvelling at the zombie’s impressive face paint, you stand a fairly good chance of survival.

3. Mighty Deerstalker

Location: Peebleshire, Scotland

Date: 15th March 2016


If you prefer a more natural obstacle course on which to recklessly fling your body in the pitch dark, the Mighty Deerstalker is the race for you. Participants wade across frozen rivers, race through dank wet forests and scale monster hills, all under the cover of darkness. If the wild haggis and werewolves still indigenous to bonnie Scotland don’t get you, scrabbling up muddy mountains when you can’t see the end of your own nose should finish you off. Participants are encouraged to wear tweed because why the hell not, and if you survive the night they put on a pretty nifty after-party too.

4. Tough Guy

Location: Wolverhampton

Date: 31st January 2016


Billed as the original and toughest obstacle course on the circuit, the Tough Guy boasts 250 man-made obstacles over 15K that promise to leave even the hardiest competitors quivering with fear. There are no social, sexual or age barriers, so be prepared to get beaten by 12-year old girls and have your resilience to towering heights, tight spaces, fire, water and electricity tested. If the one third drop-out rate doesn’t put you off, the ice cold tunnels, flaming obstacles, barbed wire and flesh-eating tigers might. OK that last one was a lie, but you get the gist. This one is going to sting a bit.

5. Spartan Race

Location: London, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Yorkshire

Date: August to October


If the idea of pitting your flailing limbs against a horrific flaming mud-drenched obstacle course isn’t challenging enough, perhaps you should try participating in period dress while you’re at it and take on the Spartan Race. With more than 60 races held around the world, pretending to be a warrior is the latest craze in obstacle events and everyone seems to love them. The bit about dressing up isn’t strictly true (do you get chased by gladiators or do you dress up as one yourself? We’re not entirely sure) but after achieving their grueling 5K sprint with 15 obstacles or the infamous Beast involving 26 hellish challenges over 26K, you’ll definitely feel like a Roman emperor should you manage to survive. If harnessing the power of evil to hang upside down over muddy obstacles isn’t challenging enough for you, they also have a leaderboard so you can really show your mates who’s boss.

6. Tough Mudder

Location: UK-wide

Date: April to October


A team-oriented obstacle course set over 12 gloriously muddy miles, Tough Mudder is designed to test physical strength and mental grit, so prepare to be set alight, thrown into arctic whirlpools and chased by crocodiles (or something similarly testing). Fortunately they also put camaraderie over finisher rankings and it’s not a timed event, so you can take as long as you need to suffer mercilessly at the hands of flesh-eating carnivorous beasts (or you know, a particularly gruelling obstacle course).

Vitamin D is essential for bone health in runners. Are you getting enough?

Originally posted on Runner’s World


Vitamin D is essential for bone health and plays a vital role in calcium and phosphorus absorption. Produced when the skin is exposed to UVB radiation and found naturally in certain foods, most people should be able to get a sufficient amount of the essential vitamin from exposure to the sun and a healthy diet.

You would assume that runners get enough vitamin D from training outdoors to keep us going. However, the UK is one of the cloudiest countries in the industrialised world, which can affect skin synthesis. As the nights draw in, cloud cover combined with minimal sunshine can dramatically affect our ability to produce the vital vitamin.

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamins are essential for health and development and deficiencies may lead to serious health consequences. A lack of vitamin D can cause bones to weaken, which can lead to bone deformities and put runners at risk of stress fractures. The most well known consequences of not having enough vitamin D are rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, which causes bone pain and tenderness. Left unchecked, vitamin D deficiency is also linked to osteoporosis, stress-related fractures, skeletal diseases, metabolic disorders, cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, infections and cognitive disorders.

Although you won’t necessarily experience symptoms, warning signs can include tiredness, general aches and pains and muscle weakness. Suffering from frequent infections could also be a telltale sign you aren’t getting enough of the essential stuff. The only way to accurately diagnose vitamin D deficiency is a blood test. If you think you may be deficient or you have any health concerns, you should see your doctor.

How to get sufficient vitamin D

If you are diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency, the most obvious solution is to get more sunshine. If you usually run at night, switch to lunchtime runs if possible and time your training to between 11am-3pm at the weekend to get the best of the daylight. Regularly going outside for a matter of minutes around the middle of the day without sunscreen should be enough. However, overcast weather conditions and a reluctance to go bare during the winter months can affect skin synthesis. The more skin is exposed, the greater the chance of making sufficient vitamin D, so try and show your arms and legs (but avoid getting sunburn or frost bite!).

Dietary sources of vitamin D

Vitamin D can be found naturally in a small number of food groups including eggs, meat and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. However, it’s hard to get an adequate amount of the vitamin from food alone. There are only a few naturally rich food sources of vitamin D and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) report estimates that most people only get around five micrograms from their diets. A reference nutrient intake (RNI) for vitamin D of 10 micrograms per day is proposed for the whole UK population aged four and over throughout the year.


The current government advice is that at-risk groups, including pregnant women, children up to the age of five, adults over 65 and people with darker skin, as well as those who don’t expose their skin to sunlight, should take a daily vitamin D supplement. However, due to our minimal sunshine exposure from spending too much time indoors and cloudy weather conditions, the SACN propose that everyone in the UK over the age of one should supplement with vitamin D.

Andrew Thomas founder and MD at BetterYou says, “despite being the subject of more research than any other vitamin, public understanding of the importance of supplementation is still limited. Our internal lives and the increased use of SPF skincare makes supplementation essential for most of us.

“We work with many experts in this field, including doctors and paediatric doctors, and have been aware for a long time that cases of rickets and other bone diseases are on the rise. Vitamin D deficiency is so easily corrected by supplementation. By taking just one spray a day of one of our DLux oral sprays, many health conditions and diseases could be avoided.”

For more information on vitamin D supplementation, click here.

Ever wondered if cheering at races makes a jot of difference to runners? Check out our race day support stories.

Originally posted on Runner’s World


Following a frustrating spate of ailments, last weekend I begrudgingly dropped out of a big race. After recently writing an article on the subject, I was painfully aware that running an ultra while feeling below par was a bad idea, so I decided to heed my own advice and DNS. Having booked and paid for the weekend – and convinced my running buddy Ed to join me – I decided to put my supporter hat on and embrace the other side of running. If I couldn’t run the race, I was determined to support the hell out of his instead.

Medals, PBs and a sense of accomplishment all have their merits, but arguably one of the greatest aspects of race day is the support. From loved ones to total strangers, being publicly applauded by people willing you to succeed is nothing short of magical. Running long distance is often an emotional rollercoaster, so the tiniest gesture can also make someone’s race day. But as I discovered on Saturday, being on the other side of the fence can be just as rewarding.

Chasing my friend Ed around Scotland was great fun and in many ways even more exciting than running myself. Aside from forgoing the pain of running 38 miles, I discovered giving really is receiving. So does yelling encouragement at weary runners really change the game? I asked a few runners for their race day tales and was inundated with heartwarming replies.

Becca Langton

‘Two days before I was due to run my first 100K ultra I found out we were no longer able to use the car we’d been promised. Already nervous at the thought of running 62 miles I was now in a state of full-blown panic. I needn’t have worried though; my lovely boyfriend and one-man cheer squad made it his mission to follow me across England using every mode of transport available. Walking for miles to find obscure bus stops he got trains, hailed taxis and even found a special needs bus so that he could be there at the checkpoints and pick me up in a taxi at the finish. Seeing Stuart waiting for me at 20K in was the boost I needed to send me on my way to run the next 80. I was elated to have finished in under 14 hours but he’d completed a different sort of ultra marathon and had even brought me a celebratory pork pie. He’s a keeper! Our B&B hosts were far more impressed with his efforts than my ultra marathon. He got extra bacon and everything.’

Susie Chan

‘One vivid memory I have of how support changed my race experience was during my first ever ultra marathon around the Isle of Wight. I had been running for hours, my legs hurt like hell, and I had just reached the point where I wished for it all to stop. I had been going up and down some cliffs for what seemed like hours in the biting wind. I thought I had seen the finish flags! I thought the end was very near, when in fact it was still a mile or so away. When I realised this I very nearly stopped. Then, standing in a field, literally MILES from a road was a lady and a child. Clapping like mad and cheering me on a windy cliff. They were telling me I had 1 mile to go and I was going to make it! I nearly burst into tears at their kindness, standing there in the cold cheering the odd ultra runner past. What wonderful people. Yes I AM going to make it. I practically skipped the last mile over the line; that’s how happy they had made me. Thank you supporters! You know not the power you have.’

Jane Duffus

‘Running the Hackney Half this May, I was melting on an unusually boiling hot day and struggling to stick to the mile splits on my arm to get me to a PB. At around mile nine I suddenly felt completely terrible and like I couldn’t run another step. I was really light headed and desperate for a drink but knew there wouldn’t be a water station for at least another mile or two. At literally that moment, this woman appeared on the roadside about two metres from me, holding out ice-cold bottles of water she’d just bought in Tesco. She gave me one, looked me straight in the eyes and said with such conviction “You can do this!” and I did!! I got my PB. Thank you magic lady!’

Robbie Britton

‘At about 85K into the Capadoccia Ultra Trail I was in a bad spot, having just relinquished the lead and going up one of the biggest climbs. An old tractor was chugging up the mountain road behind and as he drew level the farmer started shouting at me in Turkish. I apologised for not speaking the language but he opened his cab and signalled for me to jump in! A kind offer, but not one I could accept. He wasn’t going much quicker than me anyway. When I passed his orchard about a mile along the road he called me over to offer up some apples but again outside support is against the rules, plus I couldn’t stomach much anyway. He was a lovely chap and indicative of the people of Capadoccia!’

Cat Simpson

‘I was running Trans Gran Canaria this year and having a bad race. I dropped at 70K along with a really nice guy in his 50s from Yorkshire. He accompanied me to the medical tent and told the nurses funny stories. Then he let me sleep on his sofa in his apartment (I didn’t have accommodation because that’s how I roll when I travel) then I took him out for a fry up in the morning to say thanks. He was a truly nice guy and I found his life story really inspiring – he’d been a bus driver for 20 years but then had to quit because he was suffering from ME, and retrained as a mental health nurse. It reminded me to be brave and follow my heart more.’

Kate Carter

‘Last November (2014) I ran the New York marathon. It was freezing cold, with a bitter, howling wind, and as soon as I crossed the line the sweat started to chill me to the core. Then I got cramp in both my calves. I think I probably whimpered a bit. A lovely volunteer practically carried me to the first aid tent, totally distracting me from the pain (god the lactic acid). Then about five medics and volunteers sprung into action, massaging the cramps away, finding my phone and dialling my husband’s number for me because my hands were shaking too hard. Another held hot broth to my lips because I couldn’t safely hold that, either. They got me changed into warm clothes. They talked to my husband to tell him I really was ok, not to worry. It was, I suppose, no more than their “job” for the day but they were all so wonderfully enthusiastic, congratulatory and kind that I’ll not forget it in a hurry. The lady who walked me there later came back, even though she was supposed to be having a break, to check I was ok. Volunteers are wonderful.’

Andrew Cooney

‘Comrades is an annual 89K road race between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, the route alternating in direction each year. It’s now in its 90th year and firmly embedded in the psyche of the country, bringing out huge crowds all along the route and for that reason alone figures high on my list of the best. What’s striking is that it comes from people of all backgrounds and in South Africa; extreme wealth lives in very close proximity to extreme poverty. The contrast is nowhere more clearly illustrated than atop Botha’s Hill where the privately educated, suited boys from Kearnsey College cheer on, just down (or up!) the road from Ethembeni school for physically and visually impaired kids. All support is appreciated but it was the Ethembeni that stood out for me. These kids are almost all from the poorest backgrounds where life is hard enough without their additional challenges, yet their enthusiasm was boundless. It was impossible to resist high-fiving as many as possible as I forgot (briefly) the pain and instead felt humbled to realise just how privileged I was to be there.’

Travis Fish

‘After not getting a place at the London Marathon again last year I decided that I would join the Cheer Dem Crew, the cheering arm of our running community Run Dem Crew. I had only been part of the crew for eight months and didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be one of the most uplifting days I have had. From the very first wheelchair and elite athlete all the way through the afternoon to the last runner, the atmosphere at our cheer point (Mile 21) was electric. The thing that made it so incredible, besides the number of supporters who turned out, the 300 confetti cannons and the oversized facial cutouts of each member who was running, was that we weren’t just cheering our crew, we were cheering on London. Every runner who went past was given some love as they went by and it wasn’t restricted by club, charity or ability.’

Georgia Campbell

‘St Oswalds Ultra 100K, 2015 – The day had started brilliantly, setting off at sunrise from Holy Island on the Northumberland coast. I was missing having my partner and his usual pre-race pep talk at the start, as he was away on exercise with the TA for the two weeks leading up to this event, but had my Mam and a friend with me for moral support so set off in a pretty good place mentally. Skip forward 13 hours… my feet were falling to bits, the friend who’d met me at 50 miles to pace my last section kept losing the route, the terrain was becoming more difficult underfoot, and it was now dark. Fair to say that this was a definitive low point! Then came the final straw – I can hear someone calling my name, “That’s it, I’m hallucinating – I can’t finish this!” Little did I know, my partner had driven straight to the finish line on arriving back in the UK, and started walking backwards along the course to find me – as he appeared out of the dark, I swear I’ve never been happier to see anyone! Things really turned back around for me mentally here – I really felt I could do it now with his support. One big cuddle and slightly delayed pep-talk later, and I was back on my way to finish as first lady for this distance in the event’s first year. What a special moment.’

If you have yet to support a friend or cheer for an event, get yourself down to the race route and scream your head off at runners with wild abandon. Not only does good race day support ensure the runners have a better time, but giving something back to the community will fill your heart with joy. And you never know, when it’s your race day and chance to shine, they might just return the favour.

Do you have an inspiring race support story to share? Tweet us @RunnersWorldUK using the hashtag#RaceSupportRocks or find us on