DIARY: A forest run with Paul Tierney

“See you at 6:45, lads.” Somehow Paul Tierney had managed to harness the Zygarnic effect on Tony, Ben, Jason and myself last Saturday afternoon in Cork. We had just finished the first day of the “Run better, not less” workshop and Paul’s suggestion that we meet for a morning run on his regular woodland route, drew nodding approval.

Next morning, the mood was different. “Who thought this was a good idea again?” No one held up their hands. Yet, like lemmings we kept following each other until we sat in Jason and Paul’s respective jeeps, ready to see the route that defined the ultra-runner.

Paul Tierney’s loop

Tony made sure we did our basic drills, especially the hip-openers, a must when you debark a car, even a short ride being a sure-fire way to tense them up. Then we were off up the hard-packed fire-road. Most of us were running in VivoBarefoot Breathos, but Jason was in the Aqualite which meant he had to go barefoot over the muddy sections!

Once we got onto narrow and winding forest paths, the fun began and we forgot the morning grumpiness and are fears that we’d spend the full day in class yawning away. The loop Paul used was slippy, full of obstacles and with severely steep sections. Here was a real chance to practice everything learnt the previous days and I had a real ephiphany when it comes to the “pulling” versus “pushing” action of running. The Breatho shoes have a bit of studding but nothing as excessive as a Mudclaw shoe. Yet, it did not matter, neither did uneven surfaces because the moment the leg struck ground, I simply pulled it off. It was like the terrain did not matter.

The loop was somewhere around 6km long from memory, with possible extensions, but Paul clearly needs to throw in a good few for some of his longer runs.

From downhill to quadruped

Coming back downhill, Ben really let loose and even took a slip which he, with usual grace, pounced out of by using an arm to roll with the fall and into another stride. As the trail was narrow, I took the route through the trees instead before we all joined back up for a furious final descent. This was the first time I could execute the natural style at reasonable speed on tricky terrain and I left with a definitive “feel-good” factor.

Once again, we used quadruped movement on very steep sections. We’d take this to the extreme later in the day on a 30% grass bank. Once you trust your arms and learn the proper technique, it’s a remarkably effective way of scaling extreme slopes rather than trying to stay upright at all costs or devolving into the “hands on knees” posture (which perhaps unsurprisingly, does not make it into Tony’s recommended techniques!). To demonstrate, Tony used quadruped next to Ben running up the steep slope slowly, and lo and behold, they were moving at the same speed!