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Saturday 9 January 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Broken by Ally Beaven: Why Were Run Records Tumbling in 2020?

In 2020, a topic of conversation that repeatedly came up between me and my training friends was the widening training gap. 

Those who have worked throughout and those that have been furloughed. Those who have treadmills and indoor turbo trainer and those that don’t. Those that are shielding and those that aren’t. Gaps have widened, events have been cancelled and our bubbles have grown smaller. 

When Lorna from Vertebrate Publishing asked if she could send me a copy of Broken by Ally Beaven in return for a review, I gratefully accepted. Hopefully it would answer the questions, I had been asking all year. As usual, I didn't get paid or pay for the book and reviewed it honestly.

In Broken, Ally Beaven takes a look at why 2020 was so unusual for running. Beaven immerses himself in the UK 2020 long distance running scene and the book details his hours in the hills and on the trails speaking to, feeding and following the attempts and adventures of a multitude of long distance runners on the roads and trails of the UK … and how 2020 has changed ultrarunning.

With normal events cancelled, Beaven looked at how Pan Shancu, a Chinese marathon runner made the news by running 50km in his living room and 30km on the spot in his bathroom.  This then started balcony marathons, garden marathons, Everests on staircases and 100 year olds doing 100s of laps of their garden and raising millions of pounds for the NHS.

Virtual races became more common. These are events without a specific course which runners can do the race distance on the roads and trails – or treadmills - close to their home.  Most ultrarunners are familiar with the Centurion events such as Autumn 100, North Downs Way 100 and their 50 miles series. After having to cancel the usual Centurion races in the first half of 2020, the race director, James Elson opened up a Centurion Running One Community virtual event on the 25th May 2020 which allowed entrants to run any distance from 5k to 100 miles. The Centurion events have a strong following and a good reputation in the running community, but even so, James Elson didn’t expect that 3 weeks after launching the event, they would have 3980 people signed up including 550 kids under 18.  Elson said of the event “It brought the community together, it strengthened our brand because people realised the community was more important than the commercial side of things, it helped us with the online shop when that was tanking and we raised over £10,000 for charity.”

Different people reacted in different ways to empty calendars and different circumstances. Some had to shield, had to protect vulnerable relatives or home-school children. Others finally had the opportunity to work from home and lose the commute time and that opened up some time for training that they’d never had before. 

This book is very read-able and the author is interesting and likeable as you follow his exploits. He speaks to a range of runners doing trails and routes the length and breadth of the UK and Beaven has his own attempt at a FKT (Fastest Known Time) on a well known trail. If you have an interest in ultrarunning or trail running, then this book will be very enjoyable. If you have an interest in your own FKT … then it's essential.

Take a look here: Vertebrate Publishing 

Friday 1 January 2021

RunMotion App: Shouty Coach or Nice Coach?

How do you tell a decent running app from one that’s not so good? There are so many available nowadays that it can be difficult to tell which one will help you achieve your goals and which ones won’t be a good investment of your time … or money.

When I got an email from RunMotion offering me a test of their app, I decided to give it a go. I had nothing to lose. The gym was closed, the country was in the middle of a pandemic, all of my events had been cancelled and anything that helped me to build up some run miles was going to be a bonus.

I’d lost pretty much all of my running motivation so accepting to test an app would mean I would HAVE to run, right?

Sorted. I gratefully accepted the invitation and downloaded the app.

I was expecting the usual questionnaire on opening the app and setting it up … you know, the stuff that I HAVE to put in to get the useful stuff out at the other end … 

… but I didn’t expect the format.

RunMotion is set up so everything is in a text message format so it feels as though I’m actually having a conversation rather than mindlessly filling in boxes. And it feels much more personal.

Something I also liked was that I had the choice of 3 different types of coaches:
Positive Coach ‘I’ll give my best to help you reach your goals’
Philosopher Coach ‘Know yourself’ is the beginning of all wisdom’
Authoritarian Coach ‘I’m not here to waste my time’

Clearly I chose the authoritarian coach. I know myself well enough to know that if I get the option, I’ll sit around and not do much running so I need a coach – even a virtual one – that’ll tell me to get off my arse and start putting the work in. 

Even better if there’s an option that tells me to ‘Put The Cake Down’.

I also chose which days I could run and how many days a week I could run which is fairly in running apps, but what was different was that I could also set the type of terrain I was running on. As everyone knows there’s quite a difference between road running and trail running. Usually mud.  Lots of it. 

Goal setting was simple. The app simply asked me ‘Why do you run’ and gave me a range of options e.g. set a PB, run for fun, running as cross training or do well in a timed test. It was nice to be able to be specific and also to have the option to run for pleasure. So many apps are end goal focused that it’s nice to have an option to NOT have that. Particularly in a year where I’m a little peeved about having all of my events cancelled from under me.

VERY peeved.

As a result I didn’t have an event to train for this year, but because I’m contrary I decided to put in ‘Wellness and Pleasure’ but also ‘Finisher of a Race’,

However, the app was clearly waiting for me to be a pain as it asked whether I was in lockdown and whether I’d like to prepare for a virtual race in 2021. Huh, slick. 

It even offered me a list of races …

Ok. I’m impressed.


The app is based in the French Alps and as a result the default setting is in kilometres. I tend to work in minute/miles for my running and I couldn’t find out how to change from km to miles. I asked the team and they confirmed that this option is coming shortly. However, currently it works in kilometres. 

I once did something that the app didn’t expect and it directed me to an error page with a message ‘Oups that shouldn’t be there’ text on the screen. The app does display some dubious English on occasion. But that kind of makes me like it even more. It gives the app even more character. 

If you google the app, the main website you are directed to is in French. This was a bit offputting initially as my French language skills are still around GCSE level (I can ask the way to the football stadium and get a beer but that’s about it) but there is an English version if you look a couple of search results down: Run Motion Website


I found the RunMotion app very professional and easy to use. I particularly liked the text message style mentoring and goal setting as it felt informal and quite an easy way to decide on my options and what I wanted to get out of the app. 

 What I like is the simplicity. It’s easy to use and easy to change. Yet it feels personal. 

I’ve used the app for it ‘speed and explosiveness’ plan and it was easy to follow. I put the session into the training calendar I use and synched my runs from my Garmin which again was very easy to set up. In a year that has been a bit chaotic and unstructured, it has been nice not to have to think about what sessions I need to plan as it has been done for me.

The app gives you 2 weeks free to trial it and then it’s £5 a month for premium version. I liked it the app so much that I recommended my husband download it and follow a plan. He’s currently asked it to train him for the 40 mile ultra he has scheduled in April. But he’s still struggling with trying to get it to add in cake stops during his run ... Maybe that’s some feedback I’ll pass back to the developers.

      The app is designed to be useful for all abilities from runners, from beginners to seasoned athletes and for a range of terrains from mountains to treadmills!
      Over 12OK users mainly from France at present but the app is moving into the UK, USA, Belgian and Swiss markets … 
      The app is connected to Strava and a range of different GPS watches including Garmin, Polar and Suunto.
    • Positive reviews from multiple sources: "RunMotion innovates in the way it approaches the world of running and deserves to be discovered" - Runner's World."The possibility for all runner profiles to receive personalized and practical coaching in order to progress. Tested and approved!" - Nature Trail.

If you'd like to try the app, go here RunMotion or search 'RunMotion' in the Play Store or the App Store or google. You get 2 weeks free trial.

p.s. Let me know what you think!