The Bearded Runner - By Ambassador Alex Van Oostrum

Posted on Thu, Dec 01, 2016


I sit here today 3 days away from my first ultra. I also sit here with a knee the size of a basketball. Fairly silly, I whacked it on a solid wooden bench. Flush. Head on. Now with bruising and swelling at the head of the tibia, I am uncertain as to whether the ultra will happen. Actually let me rephrase, whether the ultra will be finished. I’m definitely gonna start it. A point for UTMB is on the line as is a beautiful day by the seaside. So pray for me basically. As the ultra may or may not be a success, let’s pause for reflection. What has happened in 2016 and what are the plans for 2017?


In January I took my christmassy lardy bum to Trailscape to run my first half marathon of the year. I had a sore ankle and a hangover. My buddy Rajan and I ran ourselves into 3rd, only to finish off the podium in 1:40. I returned to Kent in September to run another trail this time with Maverick Race and this time in 1:36. Second time around, same result (5th) but a wonderful course and beautiful conditions. More on Maverick later!


World Major Marathon’s 3 and 4. Boston was the big race of the year for me. And TBF it didn’t go to plan. Abnormally warm conditions and perhaps a too quick 1:23 first half of the race did for me and I wound up running backwards down Boylston to wobble over the line in 3:10. And then Chicago. Well I’d never been to Chicago, I wasn’t in great shape and Chicago has vegan pizza pie, Revolution Brewery and (now World Champs) the Cubs. All of that probably lead to me taking my eye off the ball and again I didn’t run under 3h. Fairly poor as 2015 average over 3 races was 2:56.


On the whole a pretty satisfying year. I was a little hindered throughout with an ankle problem – aggravation of ligaments on the left side. But I was pleased with my half marathon efforts, running 1:21 in Brighton without a watch and then taking that form into the Cardiff half where it could have been 1:18 or so had it not have been for Storm Angus, but I settled for 1:20 for the 3rd time. I was deflated after Boston, without question. And then Chicago was maybe another underperformance. But I had a wicked time so can’t complain!


My thanks go to the AR Trail Team for having me this year. We’ve had a great time running in Chamonix, on the North Downs Way etc and I have been inspired by the efforts of others at UTMB, Centurion Races and more. The Moins Hard trail marathon was a highlight. Running with Brewdog at our first mountain race was an experience I’ll never forget. What a crew. It might not be that I get to run with that brigade next year, we’ll see. But either way my thanks go out to James and Claudia for bringing us together.


I had to change my training this year. As already mentioned, I started the year with a gammy ankle. Strength work and not just less running was therefore on the agenda. Similarly with a change in work schedule (back to full time) and different personal circumstance, I had to move my free time around. Introducing cross training was a must. But I am a gymophobe. And so found solace in two new experiences. Yoga and Climbing.


Yoga had always intrigued me. I knew the health benefits to runners; it can really help with strength, flexibility and mobility. But the real win I found out was the emotional and mental balance yoga brings. With a more hectic schedule, the ability to find calm, relax and listen to my body’s needs and surrender to how I was feeling (physically and emotionally) was – and is – invaluable. I’ve been to several classes this year, at Coate Studios with AR and Laurella Fox-Pitt,The Well Garden, Fierce Grace and finally Mindful Movements, I’ve practised Prana Flow, Vinyasa, Bikram and Ashtanga. I am a massive fan and yoga has become a regular part of my routine in life, not just running.


Climbing is a new one on me and I love it. It continues to be a discovery. I’ve climbed several times at the Castle Climbing Centre, pretty much just bouldering with friends. I’m a total convert. If you can’t find me on a Friday night next year, the chances are I’ll be up a wall at the Castle! Come join! Not only am I loving the new challenge of climbing and the developing strength in my core, upper body and mental focus, I can’t wait to learn more about top roping. Having visited Kendal Mountain Festival this year (see last post), I’ve decided that I want to become more of an Outdoorsman than a pure Runner. I’m thinking traverses, single-push summiting from base to peak. But more on that to come.


OK back to the running. I am delighted to have been offered the chance to be an ambassador for the Maverick Race series. Maverick Race is all about experiencing the great outdoors and trail running for fitness and peace of mind. We’re talking beautiful landscapes and a range of distances making the physical challenge accessible to all. Personally I am going to run at least 2 of the new Buff X-Series races – in Snowdonia and the Peak District. Then at least 4 of the Original series, at this moment in time – Sussex, Surrey, Kent and Oxfordshire. Bring it on! 

What else? Well a crack at personal bests on the road again – I have 2 half marathons lined up including Barcelona in February. I want to go fast in London, my 5th marathon major of the 6. Then I have a place at the Mont-Blanc marathon which is super exciting and then hopefully an acceptance to the OCC 55k for a return to Chamonix.

The diary is open, especially later in the year. I am hoping to get another ultra in there but, mostly, I just want to be in the mountains more – maybe in the Lakes or abroad – and probably incorporating more climbing and adventure. Hopefully see you out there!

Any questions hit me up on social or on email. Links up top. Diary in the about section.


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