Take a run on the Wild Side
Wild Running interviewed ultra marathon Runner Christian Shiester, who once weighed in at twenty stone and smoked forty a day but transformed himself in to an international class ultra runner. It was an email interview but don’t hold that against us!
1. You once smoked a lot and were obese but I’m guessing you had some basic fitness going for you? At least a spot of downhill skiing? Did you do any other sports?
Not competitively, but I think it is important to have some variety in your training regime so I do a bit of mountain biking, road cycling and swimming.
2. Have you ever dabbled in barefoot running and do you have a view on it?
I have tried barefoot running once or twice before but for the terrain that I run on I need the support of a good shoe.
3. Does your training include a lot of gym work/conditioning and if so what?
No I prefer to train outside, I enjoy fresh air and the nature too much to train indoors.
4. If you had to choose one bit of kit which was indispensable, what would it be?
My running shoes for sure – the ASICS GEL FUJI ELITE. Having the correct trainers is important for any runner but particularly important considering the tough terrains that I have to run through.
5. Which landscapes inspire you the most and do you ever notice how they affect your mood/motivation?
I most enjoy running through the desert. I love the burning hot days, the cold nights, the silence and the infinite landscapes.
6. If you could do any other sport, what would it be?
I love sailing and would love to sail around the world one day.
7. What are the words you most often repeat to yourself when exhaustion hits?
No matter how much it hurts when I’m running, nothing hurts more than the feeling of failing or quitting. You will always have to come back to that point of pain at some point so it’s better to just push through. I always strive to better my best and push my body to the next level.
8. What do you tend to eat during competition and do you stick to a particular diet beforehand?
Mostly nuts, olive oil, fruits and cereal
9. How much of your training is done alone and do you ever listen to music?
I never listen to music. I prefer to listen to the sound of myself running and to the voice of nature. These are the most impressive sounds for me.
10. What words of advice would you give to someone considering taking up an ultra challenge for the first time?
When you’re ready to learn something new about yourself then just simply go for it.
11. Is this a day job or do you do this full time?
Running has become my fulltime profession and I’m lucky to have a day job which I am so passionate about.
Christian Schiester is an ambassador for sports performance brand ASICS. If you would like to ‘Better your best’, with the new MYASICS app, you can visit app.myasics.com.’
Austrian extreme runner, Christian Schiester, is the latest athlete to feature in the new ASICS ‘Journey of Improvement’ brand campaign, designed to motivate and inspire athletes to achieve their goals.
The 90-second video filmed in Austria follows Schiester as he runs through the urban streets of Salzburg, sprints over the Zeller See and scrambles up the Großglockner, the highest mountain in Austria. The digital offering tells Schiester’s inspirational story from couch potato to one of the greatest extreme trail runners in history.
At the age of 22, Schiester was a heavy drinker, smoking over 40 cigarettes a day and severely obese. His doctor advised him that if he continued with his current lifestyle, Schiester would not live to see his 50th birthday. This sobering diagnosis radically changed Schiesters’ outlook on life, as he quit smoking, gave up alcohol and started running.
At first, the road wasn’t easy for Schiester, as he experienced a variety of personal setbacks involving his troubled past. However, after two years of hard work and training, he had competed in the New York Marathon and won his first Austrian half-marathon.
Schiester narrates; “It’s easy to kill your body. It’s easy to kill your brain. But I think it is possible for everyone to change”
A further 25 national titles followed before Schiester wanted to push himself further, entering the Marathon de Sables, a six-day race across the Sahara desert, where he finished in 12th place. As his passion for extreme running developed, Schiester continued to push his body to the next level, entering the five-day Himalayan Run, and breaking the race record by an impressive 15 minutes. In 2006, he took on the Jungle Marathon through the Brazilian Amazon Rain Forest and then went on to win Antarctica Ice Marathon the following year.
The campaign, produced by 180 Amsterdam, debuts on 5th April and is designed to inspire everyday athletes to ‘better your best’. Throughout the narrative, Schiester emphasizes that winning was never important in his life, running simply gave him the opportunity to feel comfortable with his body and enjoy the natural surroundings.
Commenting on the Asics campaign theme, Schiester said; “When I was a child, I used my body as an excuse to stop me from achieving my goals, but now it is my greatest tool. I can use all the power out of my body and run through the greatest places on Earth. I hope my story encourages everyday sportspeople to better your best.”
Marathon des Sables (2003) 243km Rank 12
Himalayan Stage Race (2004) 162km Rank 1
Jungle Marathon (2006) 202km Rank 3
Antarctic Race (2007) 100km Rank 1
Atacama Crossing (2009) 250km Rank 6
Schiester is currently training for The Ancient Khmer Path (Cambodia) later this year and the Black Ice Race (Siberia) in 2014.
Bupa asked Wild Running if we had any questions for their qualified physios, so I’ve passed on some of the questions you asked. Here are their answers:
-Have you noticed a difference in the injury rates among barefoot and non barefoot runners?
Barefoot runners are still in the minority and I am yet to notice a surge in barefoot runners presenting with injuries. I have seen some injuries from runners transitioning from shoes to barefoot and this is probably inevitable if you have spent your life running in shoes.
-Are there some people who are not cut out for these shoes?
Unfortunately there isn’t a solid amount of research into who does well and who doesn’t do so well running barefoot or in “minimal” running footwear. A changes in foot landing position is commonly but not always seen when people move from a traditional running shoe to a “minimal” shoe. Most commonly we see the runner change from a heel strike in a traditional shoe to a more mid-foot or front foot (fore-foot strike)when running barefoot or in a “minimal” shoe. This will tend to increase the pressure on the soft tissue at the back of the leg , especially the Achilles’ tendon. So If you have been struggling with an Achilles’ tendon problem I probably wouldn’t be going and changing to a “minimal“ shoe. But that said, later down the line once good tendon healing has been achieved – a small amount of controlled forefoot running may help to strengthen the Achilles tendon.
Everybody is a individual and running styles, biomechanics and foot positions vary between runners so much that each case needs to evaluated on an individual basis.
-When is it not sensible to train through a nagging injury?
Training through any injury should always be managed with caution and monitored closely – if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. If a nagging injury is 2-3/10 that is present with running but not affecting performance and goes away shortly after the session then this may be acceptable, but if the pain starts to become more frequent, more intense and inhibit your running or training programme and remains sore after the session, then this is not acceptable. Quite often the symptoms may settle with rest but then returns as soon as the activity commences, this should be reviewed to identify the source of the problem as further rehabilitation or treatment is likely to be required by a physiotherapist.
-Can rock tape allow you to run on a niggle?
Rock tape or kinesiology tape, can help to reduce the strain on an overworked tissue or facilitate a weak muscle. This can be particularly useful for a big event such as a marathon, where you have had niggles in training before hand. However it is important that you have a proper diagnosis for your symptoms before applying tape. If in doubt seek advice from a Bupa physiotherapist, who will also be able to advise you on the most effective taping techniques for your symptoms.
-Where would you recommend buying foam rollers to help the IT band?
Most Sports and running shops now stock them, but they can also be found online. Do a basic search for foam roller and many different brands and shapes are available.
-What stretches would you recommend to relax the quads, apart from clutching the ankle behind the butt?
https://www.physiotec.org/images/exercises/lic_1000/images/FLE8413_A.jpgDynamic lunges and squats can help. But flexing knee to butt is the most specific, done in either standing, side lying or prone lying.
-What is the most common cause of tightness in the upper quads.
The quadriceps muscle is so named because it is made up of four component parts. The inside or medial muscle group, The outside or lateral muscle group. A deep muscle part and a superficial part. The superficial muscle is known as rectus femoris. This muscle can become tight due to overuse and over activity. It is important to ensure that muscles remain flexible and are in balance with their opposing muscle groups, i.e also maintaining flexibility in Hip flexors and Hamstrings.
-Apart from RICE treatment, what would you recommend for a slightly torn achilles, two months after the event, in terms of rehab?
Gentle stretching to maintain length in the tendon and calf muscle, but also gentle strengthening to maintain load through tendon., like calf raises, double and single leg. Low impact activity like cycling and swimming, then progressing to cross-trainer depending on pain. A physiotherapist can provide you with a more individualised rehab programme depending on your symptoms.
-Do you think we should build in strategic walking to a really long ultra run, in order to allow our bodies to recover/better endure the distance?
Cross-training has its benefits when training for long distance to help prevent injuries, recovery and use muscles in different way. Up to 8x body weight goes through the knee joint when running compared to only 1.2 x body weight with walking.
-Would you say you see more injuries from road runners or off road runners and what is the percentage?
More likely road runners due to the hard surface and repetitive nature. Differing terrain and undulation works the muscles constantly but in different ways.
-I know a wild runner who has been barefoot running (in minimalist shoes) for a while but who has a slight peroneal tendon problem (not too serious but niggling). Should she continue running in these shoes or at least what are the dangers associated with not wearing road shoes? DOK
Best to seek advice from a physiotherapist or podiatrist who can assess gait and running style and give advice on whether more support is required.
The physios who answered the questions were located at the West End Bupa Centre and Barbican Bupa centre. Links to the centres, if you would like to include them are:
About six months ago, I was browsing one of the many bookshelves in Totnes, when I chanced upon a book called Running With Kenyans. The author, who seemed to have a Scandinavian/Hindu name but apparently lived in Devon, had written about two subjects which remained close to my heart: Running and Africa. Making sideways eye contact with the cashier,who seemed resigned to his fate, overseeing amateur browsers like me, I continued to read, getting sucked in to the time vortex that links present passions with past networks of chance experience, I was up and running backwards through the pages, to the time I spent in Kenya as an 18 year-old.
Green as a new born cub scout, pulse throbbing with the immediacy of an African savannah and the mayhem of Nairobi. The words offered tendrils back to Eldoret, and St Patricks and the red earthed, potholed roads and the running stick men, whose fat smiles alone, seemed to offer balast to keep them upright and their warmth and hospitality and modesty. Thirty minutes later, I looked up and the cashier was waiting with keys in hand to lock up.
As I left the shop, I was once more running but this time forwards in my mind. Totnes is a town where chance and coincidence seems to converge much quicker than other places I have lived. I knew it was only a matter of time before I met the author of these words. And a month later it materialised. I received a call from a man whose name I could not pronounce without shearing a syllable or two. He wanted to go wild running and asked if we could meet up. The result is this article, which appeared in today’s Guardian newspaper. Read on…
Wild Running launches The Moonlight Flit night running race on the evening of Saturday May 18th
The first night race to be held in Totnes, takes place in May when the Moonlight Flit run comes to Sharpham.
Runners will set off at dusk and finish in the dark, outside Sharpham House overlooking the iconic River Dart. Organisers Ceri Rees and Ben Tisdall, who wanted to offer a ‘slightly wild’ challenge suitable for all abilities, have included three races: The 20km Moonlight Flit, the 10km Moonlight Flitlet and the shorter Sharpham Shuffle, which is a 3km fun run for younger or less experienced runners.
Participants in the Moonlight Flit or the Moonlight Flitlet will need to wear head torches as both races finish after dark. The 3K Sharpham Shuffle starts earlier and starts and finishes in daylight.
All of the runs will be spectator friendly and the two main events will feature a one and two lap circuit of green lanes, bridle ways and forest paths, respectively. Runners will be played out and back by a ukulele band and refreshments will be included in the cost of entry, while visitors can also feast on locally sourced BBQ, which will be run by Ambios.
Sometimes you learn more when things don’t go right, than when they do. This blog is neither about the rules for success, nor a do’s and dont’s list, nor any such one size fits all formula.
It’s about what happens when you fail to listen to your body, when you’re in autopilot and suggests how to avoid the counter side of keeping calm and carrying on. I would say that most of us fall in to this mind trap, at least once a year.
In a competitive context, our muscle DNA is wired to learn. Except we don’t always know when to listen. The biggest barrier to this is sometimes our aspirations, which can become so hard wired to the tramlines, they may keep us on a course which is headed for the terminus and not our intended destination. It can be pig headedness or it can simply be the need for variety and a desire to break the cycle of repetitive training, by racing when we are not yet ready.
Even in the relatively inconspicuous (at the moment in the UK but perhaps not for long) world of off road endurance, whether it’s trail running, fell running, whatever, it can be a very specialised form of physicality. Especially for those who don’t go extracurricular and dabble in duathlons or adventure racing in between. Last year’s training may or may not have paid off. But did we learn enough from it to actually move on, and have we tried using alternative routes to get us off the tramlines?
Trying to rush back to fitness, too soon after a layoff and so failing to listen to the body, may be the number one lesson in forgetting to learn from our mistakes. Everyone’s done it. Everyone remembers what happens. But the mind is a duplicitous tool and as most runners I think, are of an optimistic bent, they try to will themselves in to shape.
Bear with me while I use bloggers license to use the first person in this article. It’s allowed.
Read This Article
Vivo Barefoot technology
With Barefoot technology very much in the ascendancy, which may sound like an oxymoron, there is a lot of smoke surrounding the issue.
As a recent advocate of barefoot technique, as a means of minimising injury and maximising the pleasure to be had from wild running (ok trail running if you like but a crossover with fell running), I was curious to learn more and perhaps to cut the wheat from the chaff.
So I accepted an invitation from Peter Ferlie at Ironbridge Runner, to listen to one time surfer-turned triathlete and barefoot coach John Gibbins, explain the Vivo Barefoot rationale for barefoot running, in store.
He was putting runners through their paces out on the road, opposite the shop, as well as on the treadmill, and taking the time to analyse their running profiles. He told me: “Unlike horses who have four running skills, humans have three, walking, running and sprinting.” He added: “The feedback for each gear if you like comes from your feet.”
He went on to explain that jogging is effectively a speeded up form of walking, which involves landing on your heels, when using cushioned shoes and results in some sensory feedback confusion where the brain (or muscles) doesn’t quite get the message that the vertical forces are increasing, which often results in injury.
I want to return to this and the transition exercises which can lead to safer barefoot running, in another blog, so won’t venture too deep here. Suffice to say that I bought a pair of Vivo barefoot shoes, the Vivo Trail shoe and love them. They’re like wearing slippers and your feet morph to their surroundings on impact, as they’re designed to do, partly because they allow for splayed toes on impact and contracting toes on recovery, unlike the Vibram fingers.
Yes they have a sole-a very thin 2.5 mm sole and a small 4.5m lug area under the big toe area. But they’re oh so light and I actually find it hard to put a pair of regular trainers on now, partly because they feel so clunky. By the way they cost £65 from Ironbridge Runner on Bartholamew Street in Exeter.
Jamie Page, the media man for Vivo, explained that one of the Clarkes shoes family, called Gallahad (no he’s not from Totnes or Glastonbury, he’s from somewhere round Bantham), is working for them and wants to make simple, natural shoes which weren’t anything like what his ancestors were making. Good man! Although that red lug on the bottom, does look suspiciously like the old Clarke’s triangle, albeit much cooler.
Peter showed Jamie our website for the Wild Night Run, which takes place on Saturday February 9th and Vivo agreed to provide four pairs of shoes as category prizes. Thanks a million. Peter meanwhile, has agreed to sell head torches supplied by our other sponsor Petzl online and in store at Ironbridge Runner, so watch this space.
This is the second time I’ve run the Drogo Ten and it hurt just as much second time around. Do we not learn as we get older? I am asking this and looking at my dog Barney, who still chases his tail, even though he has caught it and tasted it many times, well in to K9 middle age. The Drogo is really 9.6 miles, oh pedants of the world, but as we were reminded pointedly at the start, by race director Pam Gurny (her tenth year in charge), this was not a 10k race. Did we look that stupid? We, the assembled mass of nervy sinew, bouncing up and down on the spot without music, waiting for a woman in a yellow bib to blow a whistle….And without even a fancy dress costume in sight to lend it a modicum of respectability. Hmmm.
Niederdorf im Pustertal to Sexton (Italy): 33.4km
After yesterday’s stage, both Jody and me were feeling a little leg weary. My meniscus was causing some trouble after the full out effort in finishing third, and had required some skilful physio, late last night. Jody had also been able to run faster than his usual pace in my absence, so was feeling a little tired.
I decided to continue with Plan B, as Jody and I seemed to have reached an unspoken agreement to go our separate ways. Still, I had resolved to cross the line with him, come what may. I was feeling a little grumpy at breakfast (trying to find an Internet in the Alps to send a blog has not been easy!) and wondered if I should just take it easy. On the physio’s couch just minutes before the start, the girl who was taping my knee said ‘you aren’t supposed to be so relaxed before the start!’ The truth was that I was half asleep. Only when the Road to Hell started to pump out once again over the sound system (a clever Pavlovian ploy?) did my blood start to course.
Day Six- Sand in Taufers to St Vigil (Italy), 38.5 km
This race (it is a race but really it’s more like a long journey with great scenery). Must be like the running equivalent of the Tour De France.
For the first five days we’ve been toiling along in the peloton, admiring the views and occasionally getting little insights in to what happens ahead of us and hearing stories about what’s going on up front. I now realise that I had unrealistic expectations about the kind of journey this would be. I thought that being away from the sharp end of the field would mean more banter, trading stories etc at the checkpoints at least. But people seem to be more concerned with their own individual journey. All this is fine but it’s not toasting my bread. Read This Article
Neukirchen am Grossvenediger to Pretau, 43.3km.
Total number of beers consumed: 8
Number of blisters: 0
Amount of salami consumed: inestimable
Number of times Jody mentioned his bad heel: Twice
We missed the briefing for today’s race because we were queuing for food on top of the massive ski mountain overlooking Neukirchen but it didn’t matter. Jody and I would have been told that we would enter Italy and the South Tyrol through the back door. We would also have been told that today we would pass the half way mark, just before ascending to the highest summit of the run, Bimlucke at 2,650 metres, as part of the 43.3 km stage. Read This Article