Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas for Runners

Those of you who've read my book, or followed my blog from the beginning will know that I've got a little bit of an obsession with books.  And I'm mad into that running malarkey! And Christmas is fast approaching. With that in mind, this post is all about running books and related gifts that you can buy for the runner in your life, or, of course, for yourself.

5. Town of Runners (DVD; Jerry Rothwell)

I went along to watch this movie in London when it was released in 2012, and was instantly reminded of the beauty of Ethiopia.  The documentary tracks the progress of a group of young athletes from Bekoji, Ethiopia - the town which has produced such distance running legends as Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba - and portrays some of the difficulties encountered by those wishing to follow in the footsteps of their heroes.  Ethiopia is beautiful, Ethiopian running is beautiful, and this story will, no doubt, have you wanting to visit the East African highlands.

4. Wild Running: 150 Great Adventures on the Trails and Fells of Britain (Jen Benson and Sim Benson)

This is a guidebook for those who dream of exploring Britain's forest, mountain and coastal trails.  It includes 150 hand-picked runs, chosen for their sensational beauty and simple navigation, for those looking for a relaxed, scenic run, or a 'hard-as-nails' challenge.  Route maps, photographs and trail descriptions are included, along with information on safety and training advice.  Ideal gift for anybody who enjoys running off-road.

3. From Last to First (Charlie Spedding)

There are far too many running autobiographies to mention, and to be honest, I was starting to feel that once you read one, you'd read them all.  That was until I read this simple, yet inspiring and useful book. In telling his life story, Spedding shares useful tips and advice, and the alternative approach to autobiography will have inspired to train like never before.

2. Believe Training Journal (Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas)

This is a great gift for any female runner.  The year-long journal, written by two professional athletes who have been there and done that, inspires and educates, covering an important aspect of training each month - from goal setting and setbacks to nutrition and body image.  The journal isn't dates, so can be used at any time of  the year, but what better time to get stuck in than when the new year begins?

1. Notes from Higher Grounds (Elizabeth Egan - yes that's me!)

It would be a bit daft for me to write a blog about running books and gifts and not put my own publication in the number 1 spot.  This book is all about altitude training destinations; it is a sort of travel guide for runners, but isn't just for serious athletes.  Anybody that has ever dreamed of training with the Kenyans, or running along endless mountain trails will love this book.  I was whole-heartedly passionate about this project from the very beginning, and four years later, published a book full of tips, photos and advice to inspire other athletes to use running to explore the world.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Altitude Training Options: South Africa and Lesotho

South Africa’s diverse natural beauty and pleasant climate (most of the year) make it a popular tourist destination.  It’s colourful political past also make it an interesting place to visit, and once you’ve saved for the airfare, travel is relatively cheap.  Security and personal safety are, however, always a concern, and visitors should take reasonable precautions against crime, particularly in the large cities.  Trips can be very rewarding, and facilities are generally better than elsewhere in Africa.  Best of all, South Africa provides a great opportunity to train in a warm, pleasant climate during the northern hemisphere winter.

Potchefstroom is possibly the best known of the altitude training destinations in South Africa, but, while the facilities there are excellent, at 1,350m above sea level it is hardly high enough to initiate an altitude training response.

The small tourist town of Dullstroom (2,080m), located east of Johannesburg, is a much less well known training spot, but has a greater variety of trails, is safer, has an excellent choice of holiday accommodation, and is considerably higher.  The area is particularly beautiful, but lacks a track and other training facilities.

Photos from my trips to Potchefstroom and Dullstroom can be viewed here. There are blogs from South Africa  hereherehere and here.

Somewhere that has excellent facilities for many sports is the High Performance Centre (www.hpc.co.za) at the University of Pretoria, where there is more than 70 hectares of land dedicated to sports facilities.  The centre’s altitude is approximately 1,350m, with areas up to 1,500m within the city.

Johannesburg also has some altitude training possibilities, though the city’s reputation for crime is a major turn-off for foreign visitors.

The entire area of Lesotho, a small country which is completely surrounded by South Africa, sits above 1,400 m of altitude.  Covered with rugged mountains and spectacular scenery, Lesotho has a massive tourism potential, and authorities there are beginning to develop altitude training opportunities.  AfriSki resort (3,030m) and Mohale Village (2,200m) are among the currently available options.

Adriaan Geldenhuys wrote a guest blog on altitude training in Lesotho for us in 2013.

Potchefstroom and Dullstroom are detailed in Notes from Higher Grounds: An Altitude Training Guide for Endurance Athletes.  The book also contains further information on training options in Pretoria and Lesotho.