Running and the big C

Guest post by : Melanie Bowen

Running as a Means of Preventing and Fighting Cancer

While most people associate science with developing new and complicated means of accomplishing certain tasks, science often confirms basic facts that many find intuitive. While it may seem strange today, doctors and researchers were once reluctant to state that physical fitness had much of an effect on cancer. Recent studies, however, have shown that the correlation between high levels of physical fitness and low levels of cancer rates is strong. Below is an overview of how running and other forms of exercise can help in the fight against cancer.

Preventative Effects of Running

From colon to breast cancer, researchers have found a link between exercise and cancer wherever one has been sought. Recently, scientists have discovered that those who exercise regularly reduce their risk of developing endometrial cancer significantly. Modern studies control for weight and other risk factors, so the effect of exercise on cancer goes beyond merely preventing obesity. Doctors have been telling patients for years that running can help reduce their odds of developing heart disease and strokes; many doctors are now adding cancer to this list.

Fighting Through Chemotherapy

Those who have undergone chemotherapy will attest to the fact that it is grueling, and the lengthy nature of chemotherapy treatments combined with its energy-draining effects can make an especially tough to deal with. By running before chemotherapy treatments commence, patients can arm themselves with the endurance needed to make it through treatments as well as possible. Running has also been linked to lower levels of depression, which is also common during chemotherapy for patients battling mesothelioma to melanoma.

Recovering as Quickly as Possible

Studies have also shown that exercise helps patients reduce the risk of developing cancer in the future, and those who make exercise a part of their lives will be less likely to have to fight cancer again. Recovery from cancer will take time, and survivors should not expect to return to their former levels of fitness quickly. By starting with walking and slowly returning to running, however, cancer survivors will find their endurance levels returning.

Fighting cancer often takes months or years, and recovery will be difficult. However, people can have some control over their likelihood of developing cancer and treating it, and those who run on a regular basis will prepare themselves to succeed should they be faced with cancer in the future.

Nike’s #makeitcount Campaign – The power of the brand and social media

The world’s biggest sporting brand has launched it’s annual campaign driven by the force of social media. All athletes, including runners have been asked to tell Nike and the rest of the world how they are going to “make 2013 count”. The campaign, endorsed by a number of Olympic and world athletes and titled with the infamous Twitter hashtag has attracted thousands to sign up. Motivational images such as the ones below are leading the movement to encourage athletes to sign up and connect with the rest of the world about their sporting goal for the next 12 months.

Take a look to see how the running community got together in New York for #makeitcount 2012 last year (how I would’ve loved to have been there!). It portrays so well the power of the Nike brand and as well how social media in isolation has it’s own power to bring people with similar interests together.

The#makeitcount campaign doesn’t just involve athletes to pledge their sporting goals for this year, it gives a general message of doing something more active with your life. This has been introduced to coincide with the release of the Nike+ fuel band which retails at around £129 and basically tracks how “fuelled” up you are on activity (and adrenalin). Take a look at this amazing video, made by Casey Neistate, an American film producer about how he is making this year count:

(My heart literally stopped when he jumped from that waterfall)

Casey’s video which is full of energy and motivation is exactly the kind of marketing Nike have so successfully involved themselves with. Marketing and positioning of a brand has become ever more essential in the age of the social media revolution and the citizen journalist. Making their brand about people and experiences and allowing them to share those in a world wide community rather than another dreary product focused advertising campaign is something Nike has perfected over the past decade.

Few more #makeitcount pacts from Nike’s Facebook page:






However, Nike have not lost sight of the importance of high quality products and the way these are marketed and released has also proven vital to their success. The introduction of their Nike Free trainer just as the phenomenon of minimal and barefoot running started to take off is a clever and successful move.

They have managed to consistently make their profits rise year on year – they recorded a $24.1 billion revenue in 2012 and adapting their products to fall in line with changing trends and fashion has proven to be the magical formula to ensure this keeps happening. How even after thirty years and in a global economic downturn, people continue buying Nike gear and everyone wants to be seen in it is a massive achievement. And I don’t see it changing any time soon. Bravo Nike.
Will you be #makingitcount this year?

Happy Running.


2013 Running Events in South Wales

When starting a new sport or hobby, a lot of people tend to stick to it better when they have an end target. If you have just started running or just need a little bit of motivation, a great way to do this is to sign up for a running event near you. Now I know I have mentioned that doing this can sometimes be a bit risky, particularly for beginners because you can sign up for a marathon or 10k without realising the amount of training it requires. But, as long as you are dedicated and willing to put the time and effort into training for an event, you will love it and sign up for more! I’ve compiled a list and provided some details about the up and coming running events happening throughout the course of the year, with links to relevant websites. Have a browse and if one takes your fancy, sign up! Ask a friend, colleague or get a group of you together so you can start training together. It won’t become as much of a mundane task then and you are likely to do more with a friend backing you:

1: The Action Duchenne Love Run 2013

Distance: 10 km

Where: Bute Park, Cardiff

When: Saturday 16th February, 11:00

Action Duchenne is a national charity set up to raise awareness and fund research for medicines and cures for duchenne muscle dystrophy, a muscle wasting disease. They raise most of their money through sporting events including running, swimming, cycling and treks.

You do not necessarily have to register for this event but if you want your race to be timed, you must register here and it will also cost you an extra £10 if you enter on the day. Advance registration is £20 both affiliated and unaffiliated (basically if you are a member of a running club or not) and entries on the day will cost £30.

They are also holding a family fun run which is 5k (not timed) and does not require registration. The fee for this race is £15. 

2: St David’s Day Run

Distance: 10k/5k/1k

Where: Bute Park, Cardiff

When: Sunday 3rd March, 12:00

A special event celebrating St David’s the patron saint of Wales, patriots from all over the country gather on a fresh spring morning every year to take part. There were 1000 runners last year and the organiser’s do not accept entries on the day so get your place here before they all run out.

It is £14 for an affiliated runner and £16 for an unaffiliated runner to take part in the 10k. The 5k event is £8/£10 to enter and the 1k fun run costs just £4. Fancy dress is a popular choice of running gear on the day and it will be a great day out for all right in the heart of the capital.

3: Atlantic College Run

Distance: 10k

Where: St. Donat’s Castle, Llantwit Major

When: Sunday 24th March, 11:00

This popular annual race takes part in scenic Llantwit Major and the route takes you right through the castle and the surrounding area. They accept entries on the day at a cost of £15 or advance booking is £11/£13 and you can register for the race here.

4: Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest 2013

Distance: 10k

Where: Roald Dahl’s Plass, Oval Basin, Cardiff Bay

When: Sunday 6th October. The race starts in 15 minute “waves” and the first one is at 10:30am

Ladies! Do not be put off by the title of this race, women are welcome to take part in this event too! This is not just a running event, it’s a bit of an obstacle course where the race starts off with you having to climb a wall of hay – and I also hear you get pretty wet during the course of the race as well.

All in the name of good, healthy fun! The map of the route is almost identical to the one I showed you not long ago when I mapped some city routes. Here’s the race map which takes you right into the Millennium Stadium.















The event attracts huge crowds every year AND also includes a BEER TENT at Cardiff Bay for you to enjoy a nice cold beer afterwards. What more could you want? The organisers tend to mix up the obstacle course every year so keep an eye out on their website for updates. I am not 100% but I think the fee is around £30 to enter and they are taken up very quickly. Click here to register for the event.

Hope this was of use for you and the list is in no way exhaustive. As I have previously mentioned, park runs take place almost every weekend around Cardiff so take a look at their website to find out more if you want to take part in more regular running events.

Happy running!


First run of the year

So the first run of the year is out of the way and I thought i’d share it with you.  It took a good few days to pluck up the courage after the Christmas binge. I wasn’t too hard on myself route wise as I knew it was going to be a tough one.

I ran a quick half an hour 5k from Penarth Marina across the barrage to Cardiff Bay and back.














I wrapped up pretty warm with Nike thermal leggings, a Nike thermal long sleeve top, a Dri-Fit jacket, my new reflective Nike gloves and fleece headband. The temperature wasn’t as low as I thought it was and about half way through I took off my gloves. It’s surprising how much you cool down when the air can get to your hands!

I ran about 7pm when it was pretty much pitch black so having reflective gear on was pretty essential as part of the run was along a narrow road. Although the barrage is brightly lit almost all of the way, it’s quite hard to see the ground. There is a lane for bicycles which isn’t lit and a walkers route where the spotlights are. I ran along the walkers route as there wasn’t too many people around. Although I couldn’t see exactly where my feet were it didn’t put me off as the barrage is all pedestrianised so I wasn’t worried about ditches or potholes.

It felt good to be back on the road after a few weeks off. The temperature was perfect for the first run as it wasn’t too windy or cold but I had a nice breeze on my face. This is the first time I’ve covered this route exactly and I’ll definitely be doing it again. There is a great view right across Cardiff Bay and you are often accompanied by other runners.

Having the luxury of not having to stand pissed at traffic lights which you often have to do when city running (especially in Cardiff) is great but the run wasn’t completely uninterrupted…the barrage was up and I had to wait a good 5 minutes for it to let the boat through and lower back down. Not great when I was 10 minutes into the run and just warming up. It wasn’t all bad though, certainly no where near as annoying as hundreds of traffic light stops…so I took some random barage viewphotos for you whilst I was waiting…




















I ran in my new Nike Frees for only the second time as the weather has been so bad here and I can only run in them when it’s dry. There is a lot less support in them than my Asics but they are so much lighter and as long as you keep on flat smooth ground you won’t have any problems. I loved running in them but as there is hardly anything in them you can feel everything and towards the end of the route my ankles started to ache slightly but I think that’s because my feet are used to my other trainers. A few more goes in them and I should  be right as rain.

So all in all a good run and I’m feeling confident about my fitness for this year.

A quick music suggestion – I had this song on loop for most of the run and it’s definitely up there as one of my top songs of 2012. With a highly appropriate title here’s Jessie Ware’s Running (Disclosure Remix)…

Happy Running!


Chi Running – a new way to run in 2013

A new phenomenon has hit the ground running (literally) over the past decade – a technique called ChiRunning which is designed to be a more natural and efficient form of exercise than traditional road running.

This is not to say that the myth that traditional running causes more pain or injury is true, but it’s all about the technique. That’s what Chi running strives to teach people and it’s been taken up everywhere since it began in the US in 1999.

Ujiti Channing from the popular running store Run and Become in Cardiff says “it’s all about learning to run without using your legs” and using the forces around you like the pull of gravity to run “lighter”. People attend the sessions to discuss injuries they endured from road running and try to combine the teachings of Chi with their own style and it’s been very successful.

Take a look at this video by the founder of Chi running, Danny Dreyer:

There is also Chi Walking which again, teaches you how to open up your joints before doing any exercise to avoid injury. This is a great concept particularly if you are a beginner or you run regularly on your own. There is no “correct” form of running as everyone runs differently but with a few tips and advice on the best way to avoid injury, you are more likely to keep at it.

Many people who practice Chi still have an injury and have seen them improve. Take a look at this blog from Laura Houston, who has recently completed a successful 5k and puts it all down to the principles of Chi.

As Jane Coker, told me in an interview a few weeks back, runners can be notoriously lazy when it comes to practicing other forms of exercise. I try to combine my running with yoga to avoid wearing certain joints and muscles down from running alone but particularly when it comes to professional runners, they only have that one passion.

As it can be so easy to get injured out on the roads, the principles of Chi that include focusing on posture, spine and core positions, energy and movements, sounds like a perfect way to keep runners running for as long as they wish.

Running in 2013

We all have new year’s resolutions and probably about 70-80% of our aspirations next year will be to do with fitness.

With Christmas just a week away, everybody will be indulging in christmassy food and drink and enjoying every minute of it. Everyone needs a break don’t they?

But what I think the problem is with new year’s resolutions is people get too carried away. New Years Day at your local park will be buzzing with newly committed runners. It’s a great thing to see but I bet you half of those people won’t be there the same time next week.

Of course, the first run is always the worst. After a few miles, the sickness feeling sets in, the breathing gets heavier and you feel like you couldn’t possibly take another step. That’s fine. Don’t. Turn around and go home. At least you made the effort of getting up and going in the first place!

In a few days once your body has recovered from that awful experience, try the same distance again. It can be very easy to push yourself too much to the point when the sheer thought of running can make you squirm. Even the most professional runners sometimes don’t know when to stop.

Just be realistic about it and after a few tries it will become easier and you will start to have enjoyable experiences of running and not the throwing up in the bush on the way home ones!

Keeping a running journal is a good idea especially if you have an end goal. Be honest in there, if you only ran half of what you wanted to run one day, write it down and you’ll soon start to see patterns. Maybe you’re a better runner in the evening than in the morning or maybe you run better on one route than another.

Another suggestion would be to sign up for an event. But this can be risky. You sign up for a marathon tell all your friends you’re doing it and then realise it’s too much. Again, be realistic about your training and performance.

A 5k park run perhaps would be a good place to start. Visit to find out what’s going on in your local area – they have some great fun races over Christmas and it was founded by Phil Cook, a long serving member of Les Croupiers in Cardiff!

Finding a local running group is also a great way to stay motivated in running. Nike launched it’s own “free running” club last year – all powered by social media. Take a look at their Facebook page and there is one right here in Cardiff. You can choose from running with mixed or women based groups only and you can choose your distance AND it’s free! Perfect for many of us who will be completely strapped for cash after Christmas. Check out their promo video:

Have a great Christmas all and happy running!



The dark side of running

It is called many things – over exercising, extreme endurance, compulsive exercising.

The “running high” as it is known, manifests itself after about an hour of training. The body produces endorphins, a type of natural morphine and the immense feeling of pleasure is what can make people wanting more.

As popular as running has become over the last few decades, is there a threshold where long distance running can become too dangerous?

After speaking at length to professional runners in South Wales, the reasons why they took up the sport in the first place and why older runners are still doing it now was mainly for two reasons: fitness and competition. But what I noticed among them, was a recurring concern – that running can become an addiction – and it’s a very easy and sometimes dangerous trap to fall into.

The Science Stuff

US cardiologists have just released a study which claims that intense physical activity can serve as a positive alternative to heroin. The scientists saw a dramatic 50% reduction in rats’ need for heroin once exercise became a daily activity. This, of course, is a good thing.

But what about if you stopped running? Would you get the same withdrawal symptoms as a drug addict would? The experts say yes.

Interestingly, this study led by Dr Kanarek at Tufts University claimed that an “intense running regimen” and opiate abuse have the same biochemical effect on the body, and that the rats which ran harder, experienced stronger withdrawal symptoms. Not only can it lead to mental withdrawals, but it can also damage your body more than improving it. Another study only released a few days ago, claims that marathon running can create long term heart defects and endurance training should be limited to one hour a day (just as the “running high” kicks in) – anything over that, apparently, can “produce diminishing returns”.

The Marathon Culture

I spoke with Jane, a 53 year old woman who has been running for almost thirty years. Jane founded the Cardiff Woman’s Running Network in Penarth in 2006 and is a long-serving member of Wales’ largest running club, Les Croupiers. Despite being a professional racer, track runner and competing for Wales & the World Cup in fell running, she has never run a marathon in her life.

Club track 3000m winnersJane has managed to maintain her running obsession as a positive influence on her life. She told me she wants to “preserve what she’s got” and doesn’t want to trash her body by competing in marathons. “It’s all about experience”, Jane says and people do not realise there are many different areas of running you can explore other than marathons. Park runs are an alternative to having the race day experience without the added pressure of a long distance race.

Bath Gwent League November

Building your stamina and mental awareness of something like the London marathon, is something even Jane is not yet entirely comfortable with. Jane believes she wouldn’t be running today if she didn’t have an eight year break from running due to an injury and bringing up a child and this is what saved her health.

So is it really addiction? Or is it just dependency? People run for social reasons too. And as Jane told me if she stopped running, it would leave a huge hole in her life.

But, hearing one man’s story of how his running addiction forced him to give up what he loved altogether because he became so obsessed does make you sit back and think about it a little bit harder.

Sean, also ran for Les Croupiers. He used to run on average, 26 miles a day – 140 miles a week. Listen to his astonishing story below:

Beating myself was all that mattered

ad·dic·tion n.


a. Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance

The definition in itself carries negative connotations and most would argue there are worse things you could be addicted to.

We all know exercise is good for you. But some runners are on the treadmill and they can’t get off or are on the road that keeps on going. Why this is, is a point of conjecture. Is it personal psyche? Is it pressure of competition? Is it the fact that everybody has to do a marathon these days? Once upon a time, to say you’d done a marathon was enough. Now, people say what time did you do?

Advances in training technology have also enabled runners to be more aware of their performance. Applications such as Nike+ that fit in your trainer and track your running distance without you having to really do anything at all are widely used by runners all over the globe. Being able to upload your progress on social networking sites and measure yourself against other people’s performance has created a global community of competition. Calculate. Compare. Compete is their slogan. Competition is good – but new tech tools like Nike+ focus on how you ran one day and how to do better the next – is this how exercise should really be measured?

Running is one of the few sports that has no closed season. Football, rugby, cricket all have enforced periods when the sport is not played.

The sheer simplicity of running is it’s greatest appeal, but for some, it can also be the greatest downfall…

Please join in this conversation about the dark side of running. Feel free to comment below and please answer the poll. I would love to hear what you think.