The Final Countdown

Here I am, three days from the first half marathon of 2014. I’m feeling pretty good, if truth be known. With 14 miles under my belt from last Monday and a further 5 from yesterday I’m on target for a good finish. I’m not planning on breaking any records, but I am planning on crossing the finish line before the sweeper bus catches me.

Who am I kidding? I’m on target for a 2:20 half which, if I can get close to, I’ll be happy. I’m presently running 3:1 run:walk intervals and doing my trail runs at a faster 1:1 ratio in order to work up some speed. The trail running is definitely making me stronger and more confident.

So far as my kit bag is concerned I’ve got my running number which is a rather scary 39890! Over 40,000 runners? I’m hoping that at least 20,000 are full marathon runners who won’t be starting until I cross the line! Dodging runners was one of the reasons I started entering small races, so we’ll see how this goes.

With my racing number came a sample of High 5 Zero, which I’ve written about before. I was pretty impressed with it, so I’ve bought a tube of tablets. I can just add a tablet to my water, rather than have to cart a juice bottle around. I contacted the 33Shake guys about how to use the chia seed gels and their advice was a bit of a revelation. They said use one per hour of running. So I’m looking at using one and a half. If I break the mileage down I could either do half a gel at 4, 8 and 12 and have half left over or do 3, 6, 9 and 12 and use the lot. I think I’ll call that on the day. At least I now know that I don’t have to try and eat an entire gel at a time, so I’m pretty glad I asked! I’ve also bought some beetroot juice to try. This is meant to be a good boost, but I think I’ll try it tomorrow first – just to be sure!

My running kit is sorted. I tested my Diabetes UK vest yesterday and it’s fine. No chaffing or riding up; I shall be burn and embarrassment free. I will probably wear ¾ leggings, ones which I know are comfortable. I could do with some sunglasses. My trusty Fosters IronGirl shades have departed to sunglass heaven, thanks to one arm falling off. Whether I get some replacements in time, well, we’ll see. Lastly my shoes could do with a clean after my 14 mile dirt run the other week. Leaving them to dry so that the dirt would dust off hasn’t really worked.

I’ve checked the weather forecast and it’s saying humid (93% humidity) and cloudy, turning to light drizzle  about 10 am. It’s still a few days away, so that could change. I’m happy with that though, except for maybe the humidity. I need to remember to take my inhaler!

So that’s it then. I’ve spent the last hour locating my paperwork, gazing quizzically at the EMF website and checking the camping arrangements. I’ve discovered that we need to get to the Park and Ride for 6 am (yes, that’s 6 in the morning!) and that I’ll get dropped off at the start whilst hubby and hound get taken straight to the finish. Undeterred by those arrangements, my husband is seemingly quite happy to wander the streets of Musselburgh for three hours or so. There must be a car sales pitch there, or a boat yard or something of that nature. Jeesh!

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Lastly, my fundraising is going well. I’m up to £150 at the moment. That’s £50 over my race target, so I’m happy. If, however, you want to add to that, here are the details again!

http://www.justgiving.com/Julie-Hollis3

 

A self-affirming 6.5 easy miles

Sunday saw the first real increase in mileage since I restarted my training following injury.  It was a lovely day, a truly lovely day.  The sun was shining, there was just a gentle breeze and it was a cool 5ºC. I decided to head down along the shore road, despite the fact that it was just 6 ½ miles and that I could have done a loop of my favourite route. Truth is, I expected (bearing in mind that it’s been a very wet winter) that the route would be flooded in at least a couple of places and I really didn’t fancy paddling this close to the birth of my new running shoes! They deserve to stay reasonably clean for a few more weeks, at least!

An idea of the amount of water we're coping with - this was a field when I started out, but the high tide and increased river height caused a flood by the time I was heading home!
An idea of the amount of water we’re coping with – this was a field when I started out, but the high tide and increased river height caused a flood by the time I was heading home!

I’m also just training for a finish; I’m not trying to get a PB. I have had a string of rotten half marathons, because of injury, weather and both, and I just need to finish comfortably this time and then build on that. An easy run along the shore road was what I needed, all I needed.

Jeff Galloway was in my head, as ever. His app gives me reassurance and guidance. I’m getting better at using it, altering my pace and walk/run ratios as I need. I also took time to look around me and enjoy my lovely day. I met a couple of friends who watched me run off and come back again, grass in hand. I do love horses!

My new neigh-bours!
My new neigh-bours! Groan!

I ran the first 3 miles reasonably well. It is still taking me that length of time to get into the rhythm of running. After 3 miles I’m more relaxed, possibly not as fast, but happier. I think forced inactivity has just put me out of step with my running spirit and it’ll take me a while to find it again.

I ran the 6.5 miles at between 11 and 12 min mile pace. Not fast, not far, but fine.

Since then I’ve been reading my running mags avidly. One of them has suggested using meditation and self-affirmation as a way of boosting self-confidence. This is a great idea for me because I do tend to doubt myself, especially on long runs. I tried it last night and I’m going to add this to my training programme. Basically I relax each muscle group from my feet up, then imagine myself walking down a staircase to a lovely familiar place and when there I tell myself that I am a good runner, repeatedly. When I’m ready to finish I count myself from three to one and open my eyes. I’m happy to give this a go and I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences with self-affirmation.

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Last news from me for this week is that I’ve decided to fundraise again this year. I’m booked into three half marathons, almost 40 miles of racing on top of many more miles of training and a couple of 10ks thrown in for good measure – I think if I could raise a bit of cash for a worthy charity that would be great. I decided on Diabetes UK  in memory of Tina, my friend who passed away recently. Tina had Type 1 Diabetes and to raise money in her memory would be a fitting tribute. Diabetes UK were delighted for the support and have already sent out a fundraising pack, including a smart technical running vest. As I have already secured my places in the three races I don’t have to raise a certain amount for them, but I would like to raise at least £200.

If you would like to help please click on the banner to go to my JustGiving page or follow the text donation instructions. Thank you!

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Click to donate via my JustGiving page

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Fast Forward to Week 3!

All the best laid plans…I’m shaking my head here. Last time I wrote I said that my half training was starting with a 3 mile run last week. Well I need to learn to read a calendar better because it was meant to start the week before and last week was meant to be a 4 mile run.

Which made today’s 5 mile run all the harder.

There is no doubt that my fitness has suffered through lack of long distance or interval training lately. I’m sluggish and heavy and it doesn’t feel good. I managed my Winter 5k because it was just a 5k, but I’m now having to increase my mileage again and I haven’t really run far since October last year.

It’s like starting again.

Today was a perfect running day though. It’s cool and a bit drizzly at times, but the light is good. I had no qualms about running on the road, although I decided against running on my shorter loop as I’m fairly sure that it will be both flooded and very muddy. Instead I chose to run along the shore road. If I’m honest I’ve avoided even driving along that road since my friend was fatally injured on it in an accident last month. It wasn’t going to be easy running past the incident site. But I also knew that I had to do it. You can’t avoid all the things you find difficult.

Armpocket armband suitable for a large touch screen phone/ipod as well as a myriad of other useful things.
Armpocket armband suitable for a large touch screen phone/ipod as well as a myriad of other useful things.

I felt well equipped. I have removed all the things I dislike, such as waistbands and rucksacks and replaced them with armbands. It is quite liberating to know that I have enough water on my wrist in my FitSip for a decent run and enough room in my Armpocket for my phone, my keys, my gels (on longer runs) etc. I’ve nothing annoyingly working up towards my boobage or down past my hips!

FitSip armbands hold a small bladder which is ideal for middle distance running.
FitSip armbands hold a small bladder which is ideal for middle distance running.

My Garmin struggled a bit to find a satellite through the dense cloud cover so I started with more of a warm up walk than I wanted, but hey. I had set my app for 3:1 run:walk intervals, which was fine to begin with and I had a good first mile of 10:20, but my lack of fitness started to show after that and so I adjusted the app to 2.30:1 intervals. That’s the first time I’ve done that on the hoof and I guess it’s the equivalent of listening to your body and easing up a bit. 

I stopped at the accident site. It wasn’t out of morbid fascination; I stopped to show my respect. I talked to Tina for a while and then tried, in vain, to find her daughter’s phone memory card. All I saw, even after asking for help, was a small mouse which scurried from the undergrowth to the safety of the dyke as I approached. He didn’t help so I ran on. I stopped again on my way back and had another look, but I’m sad to say that I found nothing. I told whoever might be listening that I would come back. And I will.

My pace shifted about a bit and I didn’t really feel comfortable until I had done 3 miles and was on my way home. The wind was on my face on the way back which I hadn’t really noticed on my back on the way out.

I was really starting to slow up at the end. I know that this was a long, slow run but it was slower than it maybe should have been. However I know from experience that my fitness will soon return so I’m happy to have finished my 5 miles in 56 minutes. I ran 5 miles and that is the most important thing.

The Great Winter Run 2014

The downhill section!
Pic from greatrun.org

That’s it – the first race of 2014 is well and truly under my slightly expanded festive belt. This race has become a bit of a pilgrimage for us. The 5k I had entered was part of a much larger festival featuring some world class cross country running. Unfortunately this had meant that the entire event had been moved back a week due to TV scheduling, something which had also meant that it wasn’t worth opening my gallery after the Christmas break for a day only to close it again the next day! I know that I wasn’t the only runner who would have preferred the run to have been on the previous weekend. I hope next year that it is moved back!

We arrived at the hotel in Leith, some two miles out of the city centre, late on Friday afternoon. After checking in we went across to the Ocean Terminal (which houses shops, department stores, a large cinema complex and many restaurants) and headed for Bella Italia where I knew I could get gluten free pasta and pizza. A mixed bean salad and lemon risotto was a welcome pre-race meal – filling and packed with energy. We retired early and, having turned off the noisy ventilation, enjoyed a good night’s sleep. My only worry was sleeping in. I’d set my phone alarm to wake us up, but as it was a new phone I was worried I’d done something wrong! I hadn’t and we were eventually woken by “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.” It was a cold, frosty but clear morning with ice on the ground and bright sunlight bouncing off the buildings around us.

We’ve got the journey to Holyrood Park down to a fine art. The 35 bus runs every 20 minutes, collecting us from immediately outside the hotel and deposits us a short walk from the park just 10 minutes later. I’d decided that catching the 10:08 bus was cutting things a little fine and so decided on the 9:58 bus instead. The race wasn’t due to start until 10:45 and I didn’t need to check my bag in as I’d put what little I needed in my rucksack and hubbie would hang onto that for me. We wandered around a little bit, but the grass was very muddy after a huge amount of rain and it was very cold. Rather than risk getting chilled I went into the baggage drop area to take off my jackets, put my phone arm band on and find a silver foil sheet from my bag to wrap around me. These are amazingly effective and more than made up for me losing two coat layers.

By the time I’d wandered to the start area the warm up had already started. I entered the back of the green corale and joined in with what I could (whilst hanging onto a silver sheet). Before I knew it the hooter had been hooted and we were off!

I’d set my Jeff Galloway 5k app to 9 min miles (which was pushing it a bit for both me and the course!) and running 4:1 intervals. The predicted finish time it had given me was just under 29 minutes. If I was fitter this might be possible, but truth is I’ve had to rein my running right back recently. This has just about cured my Plantar Fasciitis, but also left me gloriously underprepared for anything!

You run along for a quarter of a mile and then you start to climb. And climb. And climb. And climb. In fact you basically climb for three quarters of a mile going from 40m up to 125 m in that time. It’s tough and I’m incredibly envious of those people who can run the whole thing. I managed to stick to my run:walk schedule for the first two intervals, but then I got caught behind slow runners and walkers. I do wish that they would, like I do, think about others  trying to get around them and move across to one side. The path is narrow and it’s packed. If you get folk running slowly, especially with running partners, they effectively form a slow moving wall in front of you. After a walk break I was stuck behind a wall and tried to run on the sift grass to the right of the path, but this just zapped my strength and I ended up walking again not long afterwards. Next year I’ll keep right across to the left and see if that helps!

elevation

My first mile reflects the hill climb, the running walls and all too frequent walk breaks and came in at 12:19. Although the climbing continues after the first mile it does so at a lesser pace. I managed to pick up my pace and stick to the set walk breaks. And enjoy the views! On the climb all you get to see are loads of backsides! Once you get to the top of the hill the whole of Lothian opens out in front of you and you feel as if you are on the top of the world. Enjoying the view also gives you chance to enjoy the race. Mile 2 came in at 10:31. Better, but my average pace was still over 11 min/mile pace.

The views from the top are amazing! Pic from greatrun.org

However the best bit about this race is the last mile. It’s downhill. Well pretty much all downhill. Flat out downhill. Magic! I picked up my heels and leaned into the hill and went for it as safely as I could. I felt good. No heel or calf pain, but a little hip pain in my right hip. It was nothing that was going to slow me down. My best pace was 7:04 min/mile.

The last third of a mile is on the flat and I must admit I was tiring out. Last year I had my hubbie to spur on to the finish and this spurred me on. This year it was all about me. I had to focus on catching someone ahead of me, so I randomly chose a  girl ahead and raced to catch her. Amazingly I caught her as we crossed the line. My last mile was 8:34, one of the fastest miles I’ve ever run.

My medal and T-shirt
My medal and T-shirt

My 3:13 miles came in at 32:34.2 Garmin time, 32:35 chip time giving me an overall pace of 10:25 min/mile. I am happy with that. If I’d had less time off through injury, trained more and covered more miles I might have been a little disappointed not to get closer to 30 minutes, but instead I accepted the time gratefully. I’d knocked 4 minutes off last year’s time (chaperoning my hubbie), run my own race (pretty much) and not suffered any real pain as a result. Today I’m a bit stiff in the right hip flexor and unsurprisingly my quads are aching like mad! I’ve done  30 minutes of yoga this morning which has helped with the muscle ache and stiffness. At least the aches show that I tried very hard!

I received an excellent Goodie Bag as ever, complete with a T-shirt and medal. Unfortunately there wasn’t one thing in the bag I could eat – everything either had nuts or gluten in it! Hubbie thinks that it’s Christmas all over again!

The Goodie Bag!
The Goodie Bag! Full of gluten and nuts – arghh!

We didn’t stay to watch the cross country. We had to get back to the hotel so that I could shower and vacate the room before 2pm. As it was we were out before 1 o’clock and then went for a very cheap lunch at the Handmade Burger Company in the Ocean Terminal. I’d been given a voucher for a £1 burger which meant that we only paid full cost for one meal. On the menu there were a few gluten free vegetarian/vegan options and I chose a chickpea and quinoa burger – which was delicious. Highly recommended!

Will I do this next year? Yes, of course! It’s expensive for a 5k, but not as expensive as some events I’ve recently seen advertised. I’m determined to conquer that climb! I’d love to knock a minute off my time, at least! Above all I like the fact that we are in a city I love. We make a weekend of it – enjoy relaxing in familiar places, visiting favourite haunts. It’s not just about a race; it’s about tradition.

Healing a Heel

After Monday’s run I’ve been so sore that I haven’t even looked at how well I did what intervals I managed. The plantar fasciitis that has been developing despite my best efforts finally hit me hard and I limped through my Monday run and could hardly walk afterwards. Last night walking was very painful indeed, so I wasn’t looking forward to my first day back at school today. However the symptoms had lessened by this morning, which really surprised me.

I’ve been following the recommendations which are outlined in this video – it explains what PF is and how to deal with it:

This is also helpful, talking about deep tissue massage:

I’m stopping running for the rest of this week. That’s statutory. If I run anymore on this heel I will risk greater damage and, to be honest, this hurts quite enough thank you! I’m stretching my calf, achilles and plantar ligament, icing my foot, using a golf ball to stretch the ligament, wearing shoe lifts and using ibuprofen and ice gels directly on the skin! If that doesn’t fix it…

 

Monday’s run was hard going, as you can maybe imagine. As it was an interval day I headed down in the woods with my trusty hound. My 0.4 mile stretch of reasonably straight trail was my track for the intervals. I started with a 10 minute run at 10:45 min/mile pace, did a few acceleration gliders and then ran half mile intervals (or as near as dammit) which looked like this:

Interval 1 : 0.57 miles  5:21  (9:19 pace)

Interval 2 : 0.51 miles  5:02  (9:48 pace)

Interval 3 : 0.52 miles  5:14 (10:03 pace)

Interval 4 : 0.53 miles  5:14  (9:51pace)

Interval 5 : 0.50 miles  4:51 (9:41 pace)

Interval 8 : 0.50 miles  5:33 (11:08 pace)

I was meant to do 8 intervals, but after interval 5 I started to really suffer and ended up walking through intervals 6 and 7. To be honest I just wanted to get home! I decided to run the eighth interval just as a way of getting home quicker, so I’m actually quite pleased with that one not being not desperately awful!

Compare that to last time’s intervals you can see how much I was struggling:

Interval 1 : 4:30  (8:57 pace)

Interval 2 : 4.35 (9:10 pace)

Interval 3 : 4:41 (9:23 pace)

Interval 4 : 4:41 (9:21 pace)

Interval 5 : 4:56 (10:01 pace)

Interval 6 : 4:26 (10:26 pace)

I came back a bit disheartened, but not with my performance as much as my injury. I will work hard at easing the tightness that is my lower left leg before evening contemplating my planned 13 mile long run on Monday coming.

 

New Shoes!

After my 11 mile run on Monday I have been struggling with plantar fasciitis in my left foot. Through a combination of massage and pressure point relief I have been gradually working this out, although running has been sore this week.  I said in my last post that my faithful Brooks Ghosts have finally reached the end of their running life. Since August last year I’ve run over 650 miles and a majority, probably about 95%, of those were in the Brooks. So they’ve…wait for it…given up the Ghost!

Today I limped along to my local Nike Store. Near to where we live there is a Nike Outlet where you can buy last year’s shoes at massively slashed prices and as I haven’t got a huge purse at the moment I took a trip there today in search of some new shoes.

Much to my husband’s dismay I tried all of them on. Every neutral running shoe in the store in my size ended up on my foot and sometimes on both feet. I eventually narrowed it down to two shoes; The Nike Air Max Retaliate 2 and the Nike Air Free Run. Both fitted well (in half a size bigger than my usual size), were roomy across the toes (which I look for to avoid bruised toes and blisters on the sides of my feet), lightweight and were comfortable. To be honest I couldn’t choose between them. The Free Run had better arch support, but as they are aimed at mimicking a more barefoot style I expected this. The Retaliate had better heel support, but I expected that too.

In the end I chose the Retaliate 2. They were the first shoe I tried on and felt the most comfortable. However I may, due to the low cost, go back at some point to buy the Free Runs as well!

 

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I have intervals to do tomorrow. If the weather is really bad I’ll test out the Retaliates on the treadmill. If not then I’ll be running them in my trusty, dusty Nike Alvords on the trail! Seems I’m becoming a Nike Gal!

 

X Border Challenge 10k

This is a race to see if I can write up this report before my laptop battery fails as I’m  currently typing this sitting in the comfort of my garden hammock and I’m loathed to get out and fetch my charger.

15% charge left…

Yesterday my semi silent coach and I headed across the border into England for the finish of the X Border Challenge 10k. Read on. All will become apparent. We were confused as well.

At the finish, located at Kingmoor Park Estate, was the event registration area and baggage drop as well as a series of buses to take the competitors to the start line back across the border at Gretna! It sounded crazy, it seemed crazy, but it worked.

9%…this battery is naff…

There was ample room for parking, loads of appropriate signage and well informed staff handing out timing chips and numbers. It was one of the smoothest operations I’ve seen. Once I’d collected my number, safety pins and chip I went back to the car to sort myself out with sunscreen and plenty of drink. I’d elected, given the high temperatures, to take an electrolyte replacing drink with me in my Camelbak hydration back pack. It would save me worrying about getting dehydrated and having to carry water. I took 500ml of isotonic lemon and lime from Morrisons. A couple of puffs on my inhaler, a squirt of sunscreen and I was good to go.

7%…I’m now running on reserve battery power! I think I’d better go and get my charger…there, sorted. OK, where was I?

Ah yes, I kissed SSC and got on the waiting bus. It soon filled up and we were on our way down the motorway service road, back to Gretna. The guy I sat next to on the bus had done the race twice before and so knew the routine. Apparently we would be dropped off at the Garden House Hotel from where we’d start and could use their facilities. Proper toilets! Imagine that people!

I nervously started talking to people I didn’t know, probably coming across as a total loon! I saw a couple of runners wearing Crook AC shirts and randomly asked them if they knew a friend of mine who ran in the club only to be assured that “everyone knows Paul!” That’s quite a reputation you have Lord Smythe! I asked them to tell Paul that they’d met the Queen (long story short – Paul thinks I look like Helen Mirren – I don’t, but it’s nice of him to think so and I don’t argue with him!)

I also got talking to a couple of trail runners who convinced me to have a go at a trail race and finally to my friend Nicola who I’d only discovered was running the race the night before. We chatted until the runners were called to the line.

On the word go I immediately lost sight of Nicola – she just disappeared and I just ran on at a slowish pace (so I thought). I was determined, given the heat (it was getting on for 20ºC as we left Gretna) to stick rigidly to my run:walk system until the last mile. It meant I was running faster, but I was getting a proper walk break in between where I could refuel and recover.

I must have passed Nicola on the first hill up out of Gretna because on my first walk break I saw her run past me. I hadn’t seen her, but there were 550 entries, so I guess I’m allowed to miss one person! I apologised as I passed Nicola on my next run break, saying that I was going to start annoying her with my yoyo running style, but that was the last time I saw her.

My first mile came in at 9:17, which was pretty fast. It didn’t feel that fast.

The course ran alongside of the north bound M6 motorway. It was reasonably flat, just a couple of hills and a couple of long rises to contend with. I found myself yoyoing with a group of women who called themselves “Plodders and Proud” amongst a few others who just seemed to accept that I would be running and walking. I kept right out of the way when I was walking, looking over my shoulder at each change in pace. I hate it when folk just stop in front of me so I wouldn’t dream of doing that to anyone else!

As we ran it got hotter. The clouds that we’d had at the start quickly gave way to unbridled sunshine and the breeze that wafted across the Solway soon got blocked by hills. It was like running in a furnace.

I tried to keep to my LoLo beatpace – my songs were telling me when to plant my feet although one or two songs were difficult to fathom. I found that I was running ahead of schedule, which lifted my spirits. My second mile came in at 10:04.

After that the heat and lack of breeze started to wear me down a little. I still ran with commitment to the end of each run segment, but my miles started to slow down. Mile 3: 10:41, mile 4: 10:57 and my slowest mile, mile 5: 11:09. It was still good enough though to put me within spitting distance of my best 10k time of 62 minutes. I saw that at 55 minutes I was under a mile to the finish so I just ran it as best I could.

As I turned into the industrial estate I could see my husband’s smiling face. He shouted me on “Not far to go, you’re nearly there!” and I ran on. I expected to just turn into the car park, but the course led us agonisingly around the back of the estate, out of the breeze and in full glare of the sun, for an extra 4/10 of a mile. However, along that extra bit were members of the RunGeek team, finished runners, their families and, I’m guessing, some people who just like to be nice. They clapped and cheered us on for that last wee bit and as I approached the line I was called across it by the commentator.

Officially my chip says that I did the hottest 10k ever in 64:57 and finished 340th. I’m actually very pleased with that. I’m not sweating the time because I did plenty of sweating to get it! I got a very nice medal and a goody bag full of things I could actually eat (save the 10p bag of Haribos that SSC got).

Now, brace yourselves…the obligatory pictures…

Me and the Bling!
Me and the Bling!
Said Bling
Said Bling
Yon Goodie Bag!
Yon Goodie Bag!

All in all, despite the heat, this was a great race to be part of. The organisation was second to none and the entire experience was positive. I’ll definitely be back next year, although next year I’ll be cuter with my application and make sure that I enter this and the Great Cumbrian Run on the same day so that I can get my £11 discount. I’m still smarting from not being allowed a discount, despite missing the start of the deal by a day.

Today I’m a bit sore. My left heel is bruised, I think, and my quads are aching from the effort. Going down the stairs in the shops this morning was a painful reminder of what I had achieved yesterday! A bath will fix that later. My heel pain though is more of a concern. At about mile 4 I noticed that my heel was hurting and tried to transfer my weight more to the front of my foot as I landed. This may have been down to tiredness, maybe my posture and gait had altered as I started to falter, but I am seriously considering retiring my Ghosts after 350 miles in favour of a new pair of somethings. In the meantime I might just try longer runs in my Skechers, having only done 4 miles in them at the moment. The fact that they make me run more mid foot might help.