A not so level playing field? Doping in women’s running

In the run up to the London 2012 Olympics, controversy surrounding doping in professional athletics dominated the news. Dwain Chambers’ possible comeback to the games after serving an Olympic lifetime ban after testing positive for steroids in 2003 sparked a plethora of opinion on the internet and most interestingly, from fellow competing athletes.

Furthermore, what was not expected to surface half way through the games were serious allegations of doping across the board, including athletes claiming it being the reason behind Usain Bolt’s incredible performance.

Lance Armstrong

Illegal performing enhancing drugs have been used across many sports and by many athletes over the years. Lance Armstrong was hounded for over a decade with allegations of doping since his return to cycling following cancer. He fought for years to protect his reputation of 7 times Tour de France winner and all time greatest cyclist, until just a month ago, he was branded as being part of “the most sophisticated, professionalised, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”. He had a lifetime ban imposed upon him for the allegations to be proven true by the International Cycling Union following further claims from fellow riders.

What I recognise from reading about these stories is a culture of serial doping among professional athletes. Most notably, the world 1500m Moroccan marathon runner Mariem Alaoui Selsouli was banned just four days before the opening ceremony of the Olympic games.

Mariem

Having just returned from a previous doping ban less than a year before and being tipped for gold in London, Selsouli tested positive for performance enhancing drugs including diuretic furosemide and she was expelled from the games.

This has nothing to do with healthy competition. The drugs must be so readily available that nowadays it is simply too easy to take a few shortcuts to be the best. To be a successful athlete takes time – and so does being successful in any profession for that matter. Half of the satisfaction which comes from a victory is defined by effort – the time and resources invested in you getting to that position in the first place. Taking the easy route and coming out on top in sport must be a very dissatisfying feeling – which is probably why athletes persevere in the culture of doping in the hope of eventually finding true success – but it never comes.

You would think the fear of never being able to compete for your country again would be a sober enough thought to ensure people are put off. Great runners like Paula Radcliffe are leading anti-doping campaigns in an effort to emphasise how these days, athletes do not know if they are competing on a level playing field because of the complexities of the substances and the fairly lackadaisical doping system which exists at the moment.

This is not a culture which can be resolved quickly, but if this continues, it will become inherent in the system of athletics and the values of traditional competition will be lost forever. If the Olympic legacy is to continue for the next generation, athletes must collectively object against the ethos of drug taking until tougher legislation is introduced. In order for younger people and wider society to rebuild trust in the sport, this is a necessity.

Ultimate City Running in Cardiff

A geat place to run in Cardiff is the Taff Trail. It’s a 55 mile long route starting at the Roald Dahl Plass Cardiff Bay and runs right through to Brecon in Mid Wales. The scenic trail is very popular for runners and cyclists whatever the season.

Unlike any other running route I know in my local area, the Taff Trail offers a mix of both country and city running. You can follow the river Taff right into Cardiff City Centre and pass all the sites such as the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff railway station and Glamorgan cricket club on your way.

About 8 miles north, the route will take you up to historic Castell Coch. It’s quite a strenuous part of the journey but once you reach the top, the view of Cardiff and the surrounding area is breath taking.

This is a long run (and you also have to run underneath a motorway) so if you think you one way is enough for you, there is a bus you can get on in Cardiff (Tongwynlais bus) and run home from the Castle or vice versa.

The good thing about the Taff Trail is that you can customize your routes along the way whether you want a good couple of hours pounding the pavements or a short 20 minute run before work.

Start off at different land marks like the one I do on a regular basis. It’s easy to change the routes up by starting at Cardiff Bay into the city centre or going from the bottom end of the centre (Sophia Gardens) and run north towards Castell Coch – stopping once you reach Radyr or Llandaff.

Sophia Gardens Cricket Club – Hailey Park, Llandaff North.

If you want to get straight into your run and don’t want to go too far out, here is my ultimate city running route:

The Taff Trail officially starts here (and so does my route), the Celtic Ring at the base of Roald Dahls Plass, it is often a busy area particularly on weekends and a good monument to start at.

Start of the Taff Trail

Running north through the oval basin and a quick jog down James St and onto Clarence Road, you will reach the Taff Trail. The track will take you north, a straight run up past the Millennium Stadium until you reach Bute Park.

It will take you about 45 minutes to run the whole thing depending on your pace and fitness level. As it’s along the Taff Trail, you’ll always be passing other runners. Good from a safety perspective and also from a motivational perspective.

Please feel free to contribute to these maps or suggest any other routes you think are good around Cardiff.

Happy running!

K


Winter Running – There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.

As temperatures are dropping and the nights are getting colder, the temptation to stay inside in the warm gets more and more difficult.

Running in the cold is a great feeling and thanks to new technology in clothing you don’t have to spend all winter inside on the treadmill.

When it comes to clothing make sure you follow these simple steps to ensure you can run well & to your best during the cold weather

Cover your head

Your head can get very cold but at the same time it can also get very hot during exercise. I personally don’t like wearing anything too heavy on my head like a bobble hat as I find my forehead gets too sweaty and itchy. To ensure the right balance and comfort I recommend you purchase a fleece headband which will keep your ears and sides of your head warm as well as blocking the wind.  I have a Lowe Alpine one which is brilliant.

Talking of wind, it can also damage your skin so make sure you apply moisturiser before and after you run so you don’t get wind burn. It’s also good to use a chapstick or vaseline on your lips so you don’t get chapped skin.

Running in the rain

As the Scandinavian proverb (and my father) says:

“There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes”

Having a good running jacket for running in the rain (which happens a lot here in Wales) is essential to making sure your run isn’t ruined by (I won’t say bad but) tough conditions. Even if its cold and wet, your body is going to produce heat and sweat if you wear layer up on layer. The best thing to do is think ahead and not put on everything you own.

My essentials are:

1. A long pair of thermal leggings that cover past the ankle and into the trainer. Now these do vary in price quite significantly. It really depends on whether you care a lot about brands. For instance Nike leggings or a North Face pair will set you back between £30-£40 but you are guaranteed high quality and they can be worn in the summer too. You can also pick up standard branded running leggings for about £15 a pair but they aren’t likely to come with thermal benefits. These Under Armour ones are my favourite:

Not only do these look great but the quality of the garment is in the price. They consist of what is called Core X ColdGear Compression whih means they don’t only keep you warm but they compress and preserve muscle groups during running to keep risk of injury to a minimum. *adds to wishlist”

2. A good running jacket is key. Here’s what I’m running in at the moment – I picked it up from a local Nike outlet store for £20 and it has everything I need.  (Apologies for the poor photography, I’d make a rubbish eBay seller)

The jacket has reflective parts on the back, front and hood which is crucial to staying safe when running in the dark and when visibility is poor. When it’s raining and I want my head to be covered as much as possible, there is a toggle on the back of the hood and on the sides so it stays in place. There is nothing worse than having to constantly adjust yourself during a run so this is a great feature.

3. Durable trainers

I’ve got two pairs of running rainers – a new pair and an old pair. My old ones are a pair of Asic Gel Galaxy 3’s that I can’t bare to get rid of as they have been so good to me over the past few years. They have never caused me any problems injury wise and are the most comfortable trainers I have ever worn. I would say these are the best to wear when it’s raining as my new shiny Nike Frees aren’t the H20 Repel version. My Nike Frees feel completely different to my Asics but are equally as comfortable – I feel like I’m running on air and I feel like I can always run for longer. They have definitely lived up to the hype in my opinion.

4. Gloves

Running gloves are diffrent to normal gloves as they must have breathabilty and also keep you warm. I picked these gloves up in the Nike sale for £6.95. The fleece version is available but I prefer the lightweight pair as they can be worn in milder conditions and are made of 98% Dri-Fit and are therefore the best for breathability.

What else you wear is up to you but I recommend as long as you have good high quality thermal gear, you don’t need to wear tons of layers because you will get too hot and uncomfortable.

So running in the winter, as you can tell does have to be more carefully considered but once you’ve got the basic gear you will enjoy running and that’s the most important thing. Money will have to be spent to do this but it is a lot cheaper than being tied to a 12 month contract at your local gym where running on the treadmill is more of a chore than a hobby.

Please feel free to share your experiences and tips on winter running below, I’d love to hear them.

Happy running!

K