DIARY: Paul Tierney stops by…

I met Paul Tierney as I was out doing one of my last easy runs ahead of the Copenhagen marathon on the Green Road just over a month ago. We fell into talk about the topics we invariably seem to discuss: The Bob Graham Round, shoes, natural running, injuries and the Bob Graham Round.


Coming up Yewbarrow in 2011

Paul’s now completed the latter, so when he stopped in yesterday, I was curious whether he hated Yewbarrow as much as Aoife and I did. The answer was yes, after 11 hours of running and with the tough, if spectacular, section to Honister Hause ahead, the torturous and dodgy flanks of the Wasdale fell had caused a bit of a crisis. Of course, the rest is history, as Paul slipped under the 18-hour mark, not just completing the challenge but entering an even more August company.


“So there is a path on this bloody mountain,” Rene on Yewbarrow

Speaking off, we Ireland-based Bob Graham fanatics should put in a team for the Billy Bland Challenge and see if we can beat his outrageous time of 13 hours 53 minutes. Most teams fail to do so and the closest any individual got was Mark Hartell who was still an hour out.

“So did you run it Paul?”

Speaking of Billy Bland, his assertion that “it’s just a walk”, begged me the question to Paul: “so did you walk it Paul,” as he was laying into Aoife’s home-baked scones (Paul had done a recce of the Circuit of Glendalough ahead of the race today, as you do).

“You’d lose a lot of time walking many of the better parts and the descents,” he replied, which anyone who has seen parts of the route would recognise as true. There’s nice flat runnable paths in many sections and a good few runnable descents. But there is also significant scrambling. I was glad to hear that Paul too felt the vertigo on the spectacular “Pillar” and got himself covered in red clay on Kirk Fell. Walking or running, all fell running over serious terrain requires you to use a number of the natural movements of man: running, walking, balancing, crawling (quadrupedal), climbing and jumping. And that was actually the reason Paul had come on the day – to talk about natural movement.

That’s Kirk Fell!

The invitation

Paul Tierney is attending one of our next workshops on how to run injury free through natural movement either the Kerry workshop in July or the August one here in Glendalough. If he goes in July, he’ll be in good company, as John Lenihan will also be in attendance. John, as many know, has not run much for the last 1.5 years due to hip problems and hopefully we’ll be able to sort him out and get him back running.

Paul on the other hand is not suffering from anything beyond what most runners call “a niggle” but was eager to get a preview of the principle, so I asked him to stop in and we did some quick filming on the treadmill I rented for the workshop and then went through the most basic 4-5 drills that relate to coaching back optimal running form. “Ye are on the ball,” he said after our improvised work in the kitchen so I am looking forward to having Tony presenting him with the full whack.

Trying the Bare-X 180

Paul also showed me his new Bare-X 180, provided by his sponsors Inov-8, and he gave me the chance to “take them for a spin” in the yard. I was quite impressed, the upper of the Inov-8 shoes is slightly superior to the VivoBarefoot (more breathable and lighter but nowhere near as durable, that’s the trade-off) and I felt extremely comfortable running in them. The first improvement is the anatomical last in these shoes, e.g. a wide snout, which you need to for your big toe joint to be utilised properly rather than what Inov-8 calls their “performances” last (narrow snout) which, from a biomechanical perspective, has no benefits and should be discontinued as a practice of design in functional footwear.

Main thing was comfort though in the 3mm zero-drop sole. You notice straight away if you are not getting enough feedback from the ground as running becomes quite unpleasant very quickly. This seems counter-intuitive at first but I proved it to myself beyond a doubt when running in the VivoBarefoot shoes and, when I found them uncomfortable, removing the insole. Voila, comfortable. Similar when replacing the shoes with barefoot on a smooth hard surface. It has the same effect. I run more comfortably on Kevin’s Way with the 3mm Breatho sole than the 8mm Inov-8 Road-X 150. Both offer adequate protection for the skin but one robs me of almost all necessary information off the ground. It’s millimetre precise!

Either way, with the Bare-X series Inov-8 seem to have taken a huge step forward. Next on the wish-list would be the BareGrip produced without the crippling narrow last and point snout which make them impossible to run properly in. I plan to get a Bare-X 150 to test along with my VivoBarefoot Aqualites.Expect a review in the next few months. As a caveat I should say that to do the test I described above you need to have trained your body’s natural elastic responses back in first as the average modern runner moves with about as much elasticity as fire poker.

Good luck to Paul and the others in the race today, I hope to catch some video footage of a few of the leaders coming off Derrybawn in about half an hour and some spare change.