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Monthly Archives: June 2015

  
I’d like you to read the below email from Martin at Likeys, one of the best outdoor stores in the UK – if not the world. They are an independent retailer and like many others from all over the country they are being battered by the larger, more powerful companies and we as runners (both ultra and not) have an opportunity to do something about it. I’d also love you take a look at the event photograph above and see how much kit is there – tonnes of it and I’m confident lots of it was advised on by the independent retailers I’m writing about now. Read on…

This isn’t your typical email but I would like to share some thoughts with you….. and as a reward, there is a 10% discount code at the end of the email – but if time allows, please read the following first.

Likeys (like most other independent retailers) have over many years strived to provide the very best service to our customers. This service includes the following…..

* Sourcing the newest and best products, often putting our necks on the line in bringing innovative brands and products to the market – brands such as Hoka, Nuun, Raidlight, X-Bionic, Aarn, Injinji (and many more) were first seen in Likeys, long before the “Big Boys” had even heard of the brands.

* We freely give advice for all manner of running and adventures whilst always having the customers’ needs at the very forefront of our minds. We have had customers traveling from as far away as Zimbabwe specifically to pick our brains, whilst we have stayed open until 12.45 in the morning to make sure a couple of athletes got the advice and correct kit choices for an extreme ultra they were about to compete in. In a nutshell, we will always go that extra mile to look after our customers.

* We always try to be as competitive as we can be with our prices.

* We passionately support the sport we love – over the years we have sponsored the Questars Adventure Race Series (past 6 years). Have been the main sponsors of the popular 3-4-5 mile race series in Brecon (past 5 years), as well as giving away over £5,000 worth of sponsorship to ultra-runners in 2013. Plus year in year out providing numerous spot prizes for many races both locally and around the country.

* We organise both the Beacons Ultra (8th year in 2015) and the 6633 Ultra in the Canadian Arctic (7th year in 2015). Both races organised with the primary aim of providing the competitors with no frills ultra challenges at different spectrums of the range of madness…. These events are organised because we love the sport… simple!!.

Over the last 12 months there have been seismic shifts in the outdoor retail market, with a number of large corporate retailers picking up on the boom of off-road/trail/ultra running, the results of which for customers is that there have seen some wonderful online discounting, particularly on items that were once perceived as specialist. 

Naturally as a business we have noticed this, and a survey that we conducted a month or so ago confirmed that discounting is a significant factor when buying. However, it was equally obvious from that survey that the knowledge of specialist retailers, the personalised customer service and enthusiasm of independents which are freely given are also very highly regarded when making a purchase.

Independent retailers don’t have the financial clout to compete with these behemoths of the industry, so whilst I don’t have a crystal ball, unless there are changes, I can foresee Likeys closing its doors to the public in about 14 months when the lease on our current premises comes up for renewal. 

In the 9 years Likeys has been around, neither Sue or I have ever paid ourselves as much as the minimum wage, so please read the above knowing that we are not trying to line our pockets, we are simply trying to maintain a service that we truly think will be missed if Likeys go. Likeys (and I think this will equally apply to many other independents that are caught up in this current discounting melee) has always been a passion before any business sense could be applied to it, so making money has never been the overriding factor, but alas even we have to make enough to pay the bills and pay the wages of those that work alongside us.

Now before you go jumping to any conclusions…. This isn’t a begging letter, it is merely a statement of how I see the market panning out for specialist independents such as Likeys. 

So what am I saying….

Well, quite simply I would like you to consider supporting the independent stores (including Likeys) as much as you can in order that they can continue to support you in your adventures wherever they might take you. If you see an item for a few pounds more at an independent, please don’t assume they are being greedy, they are simply trying to bring products to the market at a fair price that will allow them to stay in business. Please support us independents, as your good custom means far more than you will ever realise. In return you will continue to get the excellent customer service, the free product advice, the enthusiasm and passion that only an independent store can provide….. and it’s only the likes of a Likeys that can offer you the chance to tackle what is probably the toughest race in the World!!!

Whilst I don’t imagine the above musing will change the world, I am a born optimist, so fingers crossed I am hoping enough people will appreciate the true value for money you get from independents that will see both Likeys and many of the other brilliant independents survive for many years to come so we can share the laughs and tribulations as you go on your merry way competing in daft events in this country and further afield.

Now, I mentioned a discount code….

Bearing in mind what I have written above, we would love it if you didn’t use it (wink wink), but equally we know everyone likes a bit of a deal….So, as a “Thank You” for a few minutes of your time reading the above – for 10% off anything you buy at Likeys (www.likeys.com) from now until Friday 26th, simply type in the two words coloured green above into the promotion code (without a space between) during checkout and the wizardry of the Likeys website will do the rest for you.

Very best wishes

Martin

P.S. Please feel free to share these sentiments with others that you think might appreciate them

I’m not including the discount coded because I’d rather we paid the price on the tin. But the point is that we as runners need resources like this, I don’t mind if you want to buy your Christmas sale bargains from Wiggle or. GoOutdoors or whoever but would it really hurt to spend that small bit extra to ensure we keep these places open?

To ensure I’m not being hypocritical I can tell you that 9 out of my last 10 pairs of running shoes came from independent retailers but I admit that my Salomon race vest came from Wiggle and some of my cheaper training kit comes from places Decathlon or buying direct from the manufacturer at things like the London Marathon Expo (though I still try and support smaller companies like Runderwear at these events). I’m also due to purchase my CCC shoes this week and given that I’ll be buying Altra Lone Peak 2.0 I know that I’ll be going to an independent retailer (either Accelerate or ultra-runner.com) because I think it’s the right thing to do and because the service and advice I have received from both these companies in the past has been really top notch.

All I’m asking is that you think about these companies, look beyond the giant discounts and try and remember that the deal you are being offered by Sweatshop and SportsDirect usually isn’t as good as you think (funny how Mike Ashley’s hand is involved in those two businesses and we are talking about the death of independent retailers). Let’s not forget these guys support the races we do with prizes, sponsorship, race day stores – if we undermine them too much then will the races that we love so much start to struggle to find funding? It’s a vicious circle isn’t it?

Help me out visit an independent retailer today and maybe make a purchase – do you really have to look that hard to find Run and Become? Likeys? Ultra-Runner? UltraMarathonRunningStore? Castleberg Outdoors? George Fisher? Accelerate? Endurance Store? Jog Shop, Brighton? Give them a chance and help them out – if not for you then for me – because I shop in them and I want them to stay around.

Just a thought guys.

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It’s day 18 of Juneathon and I’ll be honest I’m not really enjoying it. The chest infection I’ve been fighting for the last week has put a damper on the fun of running but it’s not just that – Juneathon for the first time seems quite isolated and I don’t think I’m 100% alone in that feeling.

I’m not the first to mention it but the Twitter community part of Juneathon seems a little lost – yes there’s lots of us posting times, distances and blogs but without any connection. Having done a couple of Juneathon and Janathon events before the thing I liked the most was the connectivity of it all.

I met ultra running legend @abradypus through Janathon at a time before either of us had started our ultra journey and I met the awesome @follystone through the same event. It’s fair to say that Jan/Juneathon very much started my love affair with the online running community and perhaps this is why I am disappointed by the online community aspect of it this time around, it has previously given me so much and this time it’s just not got going.

Now in defence of Juneathon it’s fair to say I’ve had lovely moments with people like @iRunSalt, @follystone, @drdavehindley and many others and we’ve been supportive of one another but there hasn’t been that big party vibe that was once the hallmark of Juneathon. I suppose it’s also down to me to bring the party along and in truth I haven’t – I haven’t tried to get near the top of the running part of the leaderboard and I’ve been cheating on the blogging by handwriting my efforts. I’ve also avoided the Facebook element of the event because I prefer the semi anonymous nature of UltraBoyRuns.

So is anyone but me to blame for my lack of exposure to the fun side of Juneathon? Sadly it would seem not. 

There’s also the lethargy that’s kicking in with the postings in the last few days. I suspect that many of us who sign up to something like this believe it will be easy to run, log and blog for 30 straight days but they’d be wrong and we are starting to see sore knees, ankles and everything else as the effects are taking their toll. I’m including myself in the negative output as a chest infection is curtailing my efforts somewhat, but with my chest starting to clear a little bit I’m going to make much more concerted effort to congratulate, cajole and motivate people to finish Juneathon with a bang. I really wanted to feel the highs you get from community running and sharing and we’ve got 12 days to make this feeling happen …

So come on guys and girls – let’s make this happen, let’s get our totals up and not let our legs give in.

  
As part of my Juneathon experience I’ve also completed the running in the Soldier On Challenge with Virtual Runner UK. All the people entered are helping to raise funds for charity simply by signing up and by going as far as they can with an assault on the distance round the UK. The aim is that we all run, walk or cycle 26km (or as far as we can mange).

For me I would only be including my running efforts because this is the thing I do as my exercise and it can often be a challenge to find the time to run. The great thing is that I found ways of adding in extra kilometres all over the place – my journey to and from the train station became 1km sprint tests, I took the slightly crocked super spaniel on hill runs, UltraBaby and I not only buggy PB’d at Parkrun but also did only 20 odd kilometres together, I adored finding nooks and crannies to fill with running. There were lots of highs and very few lows during a fun week of running which has kept me well on target for a decent #Juneathon total and a reasonable return on mileage investment for Virtual Runner UKs Soldier on Challenge.

As I final point I’d like to thank Susan who organises such great virtual events and I would always urge you to look her events up and maybe even take part www.virtualrunneruk.com or find her on Facebook.

I may be a pretty rubbish ultra runner but I am an enthusiastic ultra runner and so when the opportunity to run a 10km road race came up I was bit ‘meh’. However, my dad was visiting UltraBaby and seeing as ultra marathons aren’t quite on his agenda at the moment the Medway 10km seemed like an ideal way to kill a couple of hours while at the same time earn another medal for the collection. 

   

I normally research races to the nth degree but this one I had barely looked up the start time and by the time we arrived at the sports centre start line I still had shown a limited amount of interest in racing but parking was easy and there was lots of it and I found lots and lots of runners milling around heading over through the sports centre to the start line.

Being a hot, bright day both my dad and I ‘buffed’ our heads up as we are prone to suffering from the sun – his problems stemming from being a baldy and mine from the sun just fucking me over at every available opportunity.

We queued up to collect our numbers with everyone else (just a few short minutes despite the length of the queue), visited the loo (again just a few short minutes despite the length of the queue) and then went and stood at the side of the starting line (which was located on the local (and very nicely laid) running track. It was about 8.40am and the first of the children’s runs were taking place – one lap round the track – and it was absolutely awesome watching them thunder along the track. Ten minutes later, children’s race 2 and the slightly older children competed over two laps of the track, this was an exceptional race with some brilliant running and my dad and I cheered home those at both the front and the back.

Then it was our turn. Knowing that my dad was no longer the Speedy Gonzalez of his youth we headed to the back of the pack, hiding behind a mother and daughter combo who my dad had become fascinated with the younger of the pairs arse – if only he’d known that they were going to give him a pasting by some 15 minutes! I digress – we set off, pretty much at 9am and we started out round the track, I was going slowly at this point and having a brief chat with my dad, wishing him luck before a short handshake and I was off and not looking back.

It was typical of a track that most of the runners headed onto the inside but in order to make some headway through the crowd I pushed to the outer edge and started to pick runners off. By the time I had made it round to the start line again I had found my pace and was feeling reasonably rhythmic. I bounded up the little hill out of the running ground and onto the course. BOOM.

  
Here I crossed the road and headed straight over into the park, there was a single track entrance which we had to negotiate and was holding up runners a little but I had the foresight to simply leap the bollards and head up the incline. It was a beautiful day with a hint of wind to make it feel cooler and all around us were fields and blue sky, I was already feeling the love of this one – but also the heat.

  
As I trundled up to the top of the incline we came across the first of the many sights on the route, just a little lion encrusted monument which I took a moment to photograph before thundering along the gravel track and into the greenery of Gillingham. We were now into a local heritage park and there was a nice summer calmness on the course and being early the local populace wasn’t yet out in force but there was still a nice level of support.

We wound our way round the many twists and turns of the route, in and out of the many local military installations and along nicely maintained paths. By the time I’d hit 4km I as well into my stride and happy with my time but I’d realised that this hilly course was not going to offer a personal best but with my legs feeling lIght I continued to pass people as I headed back up the hill on the reverse to our starting point. The nice thing was that we didn’t just go back the way we came, we passed out along a different and well shaded path and then back onto the incline we had come up. Rather handily the park entrance was also home to the water aid station and here I grabbed a delightfully full cup of water that I splashed both over my head and into my mouth.

5km in – 22.5minutes on the clock – hmmm exciting and interesting given that I was barely over the effect of the Kent Roadrunner marathon the week before and I’d done about 50km of distance since then. This should be a properly slow race, especially given the hills… curious.

We ran along the outside of the track to the rapturous applause and cheers of the supporters and headed out to the other side of Gillingham and past the impressive looking Royal Engineers Museum (looks worth a visit). The real problem was that were were now on a downhill and a steep bitchy hill that I knew we would have to come up again. Again here the support was magnificent from both marshals and people on the street who had come along to wish us well. We dipped off the hill and straight into another incline and a lovely park, as we wended our way through to the maritime university buildings we knew that the end was in sight but that that hill was still to be conquered.

BOOM. Here I started my final quarter assault on a reasonable time. I hit the hill again and hit another gear as I willed my body to what I thought would be a final push. In the distance I could see my dad. I waved at him and he called out ‘I thought this was bloody flat!’ He was doing fine though and although slow he was still moving and more importantly still running and most importantly for him, not last.

  
I pushed hard up the hill and caught up to a couple of peoples had been keeping my eye on and then thundered along back onto the track but my legs were now a bit wobbly from pushing and I decided to ease off on the track. However, my mind would not let me do it and with more than 250metres left to go I kicked.

Holy fuck.

The problem was the kid next to me (aged about 20) decided he didn’t want to be beaten by an old, fat man and he kicked too. I passed him and then he caught me up with less than 90 metres to go, I heard myself say ‘go on kid, you’ve got me’ and he kicked even harder but then I remembered – FUCK YOU, I’M ULTRABOY.

I kicked again and with the crowd cheering behind me, the screams of come on, with less than 25 metres to go I opened my stride, let my legs go and went into a thunderous after burning autopilot and I went straight last him with mere metres to spare – me beloved sunglasses flying off into the distance.

At the finish I was hyper ventilating, I could barely breathe but I had made it, well under 50 minutes and finishing in the top 20%. I’d take that any day of the week – perhaps this proved to me that all my recent speed and hill work was paying off, something to think about.

Anyway the race was far from over – I had a dad to look out for.

The hour came and went, the arse he’d been admiring came in with what I assumed was her mother given they looked so much alike. And when the 1hr 10 came round in the distance I could see his buff and his trundling self still merrily making his way round. He might not be so quick anymore but he can still do the distance and he doesn’t stop when it comes to a hill or when he’s tired and this is impressive.

He began the long journey around the track and I grabbed a couple of photographs and then shot across to the 200metre point to grab a couple more. Heading back he started to build up a bit of steam and so I ran across back to the finish line and watched as he gave a bit of spurt for the final push. Very inspiring to watch my dad beat both the hills and the heat just a week before he takes on the Liverpool Rock n Roll half marathon.

  
Post race we grabbed some Jaffa cakes and fig rolls and headed to the stands to sit down and admire the last of the runners come in and also to congratulate some of the ladies that my dad had been flirting with around the course.

In conclusion This was an awesome race, truly brilliant atmosphere and a really good route – I can highly recommend this run and the people at Nice Work and Medway Council should be very proud of putting on such a great day. At £16 the race was priced very competitively and the medal was reasonable if not brilliant. I can’t fault this race and I’ll be going back next year to try and beat my time.

   
 Juneathon is a weird thing – a 30 day exercise streak with logging your distances and blogging about it. The blogging seems to be the thing that people struggle with most so I’ve decided I’m going to subvert the form. Firstly the only daily blogging I’ll be doing is micro-blogging (therefore confining me from winning any possible prizes) but inside each micro-blog is a full blog post – handwritten. I just fancy adding in something more beautiful than a typed piece, as the month rolls on I’ll perhaps add in an illustration or two and maybe even an infographic but for now I’m just happy to write down my #Juneathon musings as they arrive to me.

On the exercise front of things I did about 45km and a bit of change so all good fun, all running and nice to be back #RunStreaking

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