From marathon runners fuelling with cocaine to running a marathon backwards, we look at some of the most crazy fun facts about running.
1. Runners used to drink champagne as an energy drink
It may seem crazy and dangerous to runners today, but back in Victorian times it was thought that alcohol was a performance enhancer. It is thought that this tradition dates all the way back to Ancient Greece and China. Incredibly, they would also take drugs such as heroin and cocaine to enhance their performance, something that is unthinkable today.
We now know that alcohol is a diuretic and can cause dehydration, meaning it is the complete opposite of what you'd want while running an endurance race, especially in hot weather.
Imagine getting to the aid station during a race and being presented with this!
2. The World Record for running a half marathon backwards is 1 hour 40 minutes
Think your half marathon PB is good? Could you do it backwards? German Achim Aretz set the World Record for fastest half marathon running backwards in 2009 in Essen, Germany.
3. Oprah Winfrey ran a marathon in 4 hours 29 minutes
Over the course of her training, she lost over 70lbs in body weight and slimmed down to an athletic frame of 150lbs (68kg). Other notable celebrities to have completed a marathon include former US President George W Bush in a time of 3:44:52 and Bryan Cranston (better known to some as Hal from Malcolm in the Middle and Walter White in Breaking Bad) in a time of 3:20:45.
4. You can run a marathon in the desert, at the North Pole, or even around Mount Everest
Man's insatiable desire to forever beat yesterday and achieve more than ever before has meant that running races are getting tougher and tougher every year. It's no longer impressive to say you've run a marathon. These days, it's notable to have run an extreme marathon.
The Marathon Des Sables is a 150-mile ultra marathon in the Sahara desert and is one of the most popular and desirable running races in the world. On the other end of the spectrum, the Mount Everest marathon starts at Everest Base Camp and runs to Namche Bazaar. Conditions can be very challenging, especially due to the altitude, and runners are required to spend at least 3 weeks in Nepal before taking part so that they can acclimatise first.
5. The winner of the 1904 Olympic marathon completed most of the course in a car
The third edition of the modern Olympic games took place in 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. It was the first time the Olympics had taken place outside of Europe and only 12 countries participated.
The marathon event went down in history as a complete disaster, as sweltering heat and dusty tracks meant many of the competitors had to pull out. One such competitor who suffered from the conditions was Frederick Lorz. He pulled out after 14.5km (9 miles) and got his coach to drive him the rest of the way in a car. However, the car broke down and Lorz walked back into the stadium on foot.
As he entered the stadium, the crowd cheered him as the first finisher and he was crowned the winner. He played along until it was later found that someone else was the true winner.
Claire Steels is a professional duathlete and has a World Champion title to her name. She gives Sundried a snapshot of a training session along with all the stats and data so you can see what it's really like to train as a pro.
2 x (10 x 10 seconds effort : 50 seconds recovery)
The majority of the training I have done on the bike is for TT (time trial) type efforts, however as I am looking to move into road racing I need to develop a bit more explosive power.
This sessions was aimed at developing such power and improving my sprint speed.
Short, sharp efforts with a longer recovery sounds okay, but by the end of the set the 50 seconds recovery feels far too short!
I did this session on the Wattbike and then uploaded the data to Strava.
The screenshots attached show my speed, heart rate and then the last shot shows speed, heart rate, power and cadence.
Speed, power and cadence are fairly consistent across all of the efforts, although they drop a little towards the end. Heart rate spikes for each of the efforts but also gradually increases across the whole session.
I find sessions like this challenging and frustrating but in a strange way it means I enjoy them more! Weird I know!
Fitness testing and assessment is an important part of training. There are many different ways of testing your fitness and strength, with some better than others. The dreaded bleep test at school is a classic example of a fitness test and is still used in policing today. Nowadays, chances are your smart watch can track your fitness for you, with many of the newer Garmin watches providing VO2 max testing as well as lactate threshold testing. But you don't need an expensive watch to track your fitness! We've put together some of the best fitness assessments around, why not give one a try and see if you're where you want to be?
The VO2 Max test is a very popular fitness test among runners and triathletes as it is a universal indication of cardiovascular fitness. VO2 max is a rating of your body’s ability to consume oxygen. This is affected by factors such as how adapted your muscles are to exercise and how much blood your heart can pump.
This is the classic scene that you have probably seen in films and TV shows many times.The most accurate VO2 max tests take place in laboratories, whereby participants are given an oxygen mask to wear while running on a treadmill with their effort getting progressively more intense. Oxygen intake is monitored and VO2 max is the point at which oxygen uptake stops increasing. The units of oxygen are then measured per kg of bodyweight and a VO2 max score is calculated.
It is possible to do a VO2 Max test yourself outside of a laboratory. You can do this at the gym on a regular treadmill, all you will need is a stopwatch and a calculator.
How To Perform A VO2 Max Test
- Warm up on the treadmill for 10 minutes by walking and jogging at a gentle speed.
- The test begins at a speed of 8km/h (5mph) and an incline of 0%.
- Start the stopwatch and begin jogging.
- After 3 minutes, adjust the treadmill incline to 2.5%, and then keep increasing by 2.5% every 2 minutes thereafter.
- When you are unable to continue, the test stops.
- Make a note of your time.
- Once you have your time, use the following equation to calculate your VO2 Max:
VO2 Max = (Time x 1.444) + 14.99
Time is calculated in minutes and fractions of minutes, so for example, 13 minutes and 15 seconds would be 13.25 minutes, 13 minutes and 30 seconds would be 13.5 minutes and so on.
Whilst many new smart watches provide VO2 max readings, these are only estimates, as they don’t take into account the measure of ventilation, oxygen and carbon dioxide concentration of the inhaled and exhaled air. While they may be a useful guess, don’t get caught up by the value you’ve been given.
What Does Your VO2 Max Score Mean?
Once you have your score, you'll want to know what it actually means. Use the table below to see how your score rates.
Age Very Poor Poor Fair Good Excellent Superior 13-19 <25 25 - 30 31 - 34 35 - 38 39 - 41 >41 20-29 <24 24 - 28 29 - 32 33 - 36 37 - 41 >41 30-39 <23 23 - 27 28 - 31 32 - 36 37 - 40 >40 40-49 <21 21 - 24 25 - 28 29 - 32 33 - 36 >36 50-59 <20 20 - 22 23 - 26 27 - 31 32 - 35 >35 60+ <17 17 - 19 20 - 24 25 - 29 30 - 31 >31
Age Very Poor Poor Fair Good Excellent Superior 13-19 <35 35 - 37 38 - 44 45 - 50 51 - 55 >55 20-29 <33 33 - 35 36 - 41 42 - 45 46 - 52 >52 30-39 <31 31 - 34 35 - 40 41 - 44 45 - 49 >49 40-49 <30 30 - 32 33 - 38 39 - 42 43 - 47 >48 50-59 <26 26 - 30 31 - 35 36 - 40 41 - 45 >45 60+ <20 20 - 25 26 - 31 32 - 35 36 - 44 >44
As you can see, the higher the reading, the better.
Top VO2 Max Scores
These athletes achieved the highest VO2 Max scores in the world. How does yours compare?
VO2 max (ml/kg/min)
Espen Harald Bjerke
Cross Country Skiing
Cross Country Skiing
Tore Ruud Hofstad
Cross Country Skiing
Cross Country Skiing
Cross Country Runner
Sit and Reach
The sit and reach test uses flexibility as a basis for judging your level of fitness. The test measures the flexibility of the lower back and hamstrings. Tightness in this area is associated with lumbar lordosis, forward pelvic tilt, and lower back pain.
How To Perform A Sit and Reach Test
- Warm up for 10 minutes by doing dynamic stretches.
- You will need a box, a marker, and a ruler/tape measure.
- Sit with your legs outstretched and your feet flat against the front of the box.
- Place the marker (it can be anything, a rubber is probably best) on top of the box at the edge closest to you.
- Keeping your legs dead straight, lean forwards and push the marker along the box as far as you can using your fingertips.
- Once you have pushed the marker, measure how far it went.
What Does Your Sit and Reach Score Mean?
The Vertical Jump Test
The vertical jump is a measure of fitness through explosive power in the legs. The test is really simple to complete, to set up all you need is a wall and a tape measure. Start by getting the participant to stand next to the wall and stretch their closest hand up as far as they can and make a mark of this point. This is the standing height. The participant then leaps as high as they can in the air and touches the wall at the highest point of their jump. The distance from the start point to the highest point is then measure as your score. Take the test 3 times and take an average for the most accurate results.
What Does Your Vertical Jump Score Mean?
Males (height in cm)
Females (height in cm)
Cooper Run Test
The Cooper run test is one of the most popular fitness tests used to determine aerobic endurance. It is also used as part of military training, with different scores being required to make the different role entry requirements. The test lasts just 12 minutes and participants are required to run as far as they can for the entire duration. The test can also be used to measure VO2 max using several equations (in ml/kg/min) from the distance score (a formula for either kms or miles):
VO2 max = (35.97 x miles) - 11.29
VO2 max = (22.35 x kilometers) - 11.29
What Does Your Cooper Run Score Mean?
Very Good (metres)
Male: 2700m +
Male: 2800 +
Male: 2400 +
Female: 2200 +
The Bleep Test
The bleep test is a classic and is often used in school lessons. The test involves 20m shuttle runs from two marked points. The aim is to reach the cone before you hear the bleep. As the test continues, the frequency of the bleeps increases, with the time between getting shorter and shorter. The test requires a recording of the bleep and the score is then measured depending on how many rounds you last.
What Does Your Bleep Test Score Mean?
11 - 13
10 - 12
9 - 11
8 - 10
7 - 9
6 - 8
5 - 7
4 - 6
Whichever test you decide to do, don’t just do it once and leave it at that. In six weeks time, hit it again, and see if your score has improved. Fitness tests are a great way of monitoring your progress and seeing if your training is actually working. Fitness tests make goals measurable and give you a benchmark to aim for. Do you have any other fitness tests that you enjoy doing to measure your fitness?
There is a lot of discourse surrounding cardio, weight training, and rest days. No two people will give you the same answer, and there is a lot of debate to be had. So should you be doing cardio on your rest days or not?
How important is a rest day in working out?
Firstly, the question of whether you should do cardio on rest days very much implies that you primarily train using weights, because if you were running or cycling as your primary training principle, you wouldn't consider doing even more cardio on your rest days. So let's assume you train 4 times a week lifting weights, which leaves 3 potential rest days a week. You may feel like not doing anything at all for 3 days a week will mean that you won't make as much as progress as if you were more active, but rest is just as important as hitting the gym!
When you are lifting weights, you are tearing your muscles. It is only when you eat, sleep, and recover that your muscles are repairing and growing back bigger and stronger than before. Therefore, taking a rest day is very important in working out. If you continue to train when you are feeling very sore and achy, you could potentially injure yourself and do more damage than good.
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How much should you rest between workouts?
This differs from person to person. If you have only recently started training or have started a new regime, your body will need longer to recover as it becomes accustomed to the stress and strain. The longer you have been doing a particular sport, the less rest you will need as muscle memory starts to kick in; it's important to mix up your training so that you continue to see results. As a general rule, you should not train a muscle group that is already aching. If your legs are sore, you could still do an upper body workout for example but it would not be wise to go for a long cycle or do a spin class. Listen to your body as that is always the most important thing.
So as for doing cardio on your rest days. That depends on your individual goals. If you primarily want to build muscle, you do not need to do cardio on your rest days. However, if you want to strip fat and keep your cardiovascular fitness up, it is recommended you do a light cardio session like a run or swim between weight sessions. You should always have at least one day a week where you do absolutely nothing though so that your body has a chance to keep up and fully recover.
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10,000 is the magic number for anyone with a fitness tracker, but why 10,000? What's the trick to this magical digit? With more and more people tracking their every move with fitness trackers, what can 10,000 steps really do?
History of 10,000 Steps
The recommended 10,000 steps that we see so regularly on our wrists today actually ventured over from Japan. In the 1960s, Japanese Doctor Yoshiro Hatano was concerned about the rising levels of obesity in the Japanese people and so began to research the activity of the people of his culture. The doctor and his team found that the average person walked 3,000 - 5,000 steps a day. His research found that in order to burn just 20% of their daily calorie intake, most people would need to walk at least 10,000 steps a day.
Dr Hatano then created a pedometer called the “Manpo-Kei” which translates as "10,000 steps meter".
The watch's motivation and simplicity made it become very popular in Japan and it remains popular to this day, so much so that the Japanese government have provided an accuracy measure of 3% which all pedometers must reach. of 3% accuracy for all pedometers sold in their country.
Fast forward to today and the 10,000 steps per day campaign is being backed by huge federations such as the NHS, World Health Organisation, American Heart Association and the US Centers for Disease Control.
Research supporting 10,000 Steps
Today, research has proven that tracking your steps can increase your daily activity and help to improve health. Research published in The American Journal of Preventative Medicine trialled the use of Fitbit as a physical fitness intervention in inactive, postmenopausal women. After 16 weeks of monitoring their activity with a Fitbit, those who wore a Fitbit were significantly more active than the control group.
A study by The American Stroke Association found that daily walking reduced the risk of stroke in men over the age of 60. Walking for at least an hour or two could cut a man’s stroke risk by as much as one-third, and it didn’t matter how brisk the pace was. Taking a three-hour walk each day slashed the risk of stroke by two-thirds.
How far is 10,000 steps?
The average person has a stride length of 2.1 ft, or around 60cm, meaning it takes around 2,000 steps to walk a mile, so 10,000 steps to walk about 5 miles. A brisk 10 minute walk? 1,000 steps. The average inactive person walks anywhere between 3,000 to 7,000 steps a day, so for most reaching 10,000 steps would involve adding a 30-60 minute walk to their daily routine.
How many calories will I burn if I walk 10,000 steps a day?
A person aged 45 and weighing 70kg (about 11 stone) can burn around 400 calories by walking 10,000 steps briskly. If you're trying to lose weight, walking is very low impact and the real difference will come from your nutrition, but adding a walk into your daily routine will definitely help.
10,000 steps helps reverse the dangers of sitting
Part of the 10,000 steps charm is that it gets you up and out of your chair, as sitting for too long has been found to increase your risk of death from multiple health issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Research has shown that sitting for more than 8 hours a day is associated with a 90% increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Aiming to reach 10,000 steps simply just by getting up and moving more can reduce your risk of these health issues.
Research also studied the effect of lunchtime walks on the effectiveness of employees at work and found that lunchtime walks improved enthusiasm, relaxation, and nervousness at work.
Walking was also found to improve quality of life for depressed middle-aged women. Those who averaged at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise or just over 3.25 hours of walking each week reported feeling more energised and more social at their three-year follow ups.