Going for Gold. And being nice.

Recently I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows on Netflix.

It started with Best Leftovers Ever (where contestants turn takeaways into culinary masterpieces) and I’m currently ploughing through The Chef Show featuring Jon Favreau and Roy Choi.

There are two aspects of this new habit which fit the mainly running-based content of this blog:

  1. Watching and fantasising over food cooked by professional chefs all over the world at silly hours of the night is probably not going to be helpful when you’re trying to lose a couple of kg and get back to “racing weight”.
  2. I found out about a food critic called Jonathan Gold

Prior to this week I had never heard of him, although a quick google search did reveal that he sadly passed away in 2018, and my post-covid body shape is remarkably similar to his at his peak.

What I found most interesting, along with the warmth that the other chefs had for him, with nearly every subsequent google search showing increasing amounts of love, was that his later “criticism” was often solely positive, and he would take his time to visit places multiple times.

It struck a chord as I remembered the number of places that I had been, and never returned to, because of a bad experience with the food, the people or my own situation at the time.

The food tasted terrible (but I didn’t complain), they brought out a vegetarian dish which actually contained fish (but I said nothing), the service was slow or the music too loud, et cetera, all the while keeping quiet like a good Englishman.

There could have been any number of reasons why that experience was bad for me, and could equally have been just as bad for the restaurant. I just hadn’t given them the benefit of the doubt. And it is very hard to, with so many good restaurants around.

But at least they were giving it a go. Trying to do something new or different. I could just as easily have gone to Strada for a bang average Italian meal, probably shipped in from a warehouse (apologies Strada – I have no basis for this, you were just the first chain that sprang to mind).

And so that connection to running. Or more accurately this blog.

I have always shied away from reviews because I believe that most aspects of running, including the gear, are very personal choices. As everyone has different tastes, so to do they have differing physical and mental requirements, making any review basically pointless.

Just look at clothes sizes to see the huge variability between brands and then imagine spending £100 on a pair of shoes for ultrarunning bases on a recommendation by me. My feet are pretty fat and get quite sweaty (gross I know), so I prefer materials like fly-knit to keep them as cool as possible. But I’ve also been running fairly seriously for nearly 10 years now, including 100-mile ultramarathons, so I feel comfortable running in shoes with less support as believe that my legs and gross feet have adapted suitably.

Would I recommend them to someone? Yes, but only with the huge caveat that “they work for me”. I’ve got a friend who seems incredulous every time I mention running in Nikes as he can’t get on with them and every pair he’s had fall apart. Fair enough, they’re not for him but I have absolutely loved some of mine.

I’ve made two major errors with shoes and race vests in races, precisely because I had blindly followed recommendations of others rather than following my own judgement.

I chose my trainers for Madeira Island Ultra Trail based solely on what a pro runner wore the previous year. And my race vest for L2B round one just didn’t fit at all but it was a Scott Jurek special edition!

Some of it will always be trial and error, but it is expensive so if I can keep the costs down, I’ll always try. Just remember to take any review with a pinch of salt (if I was writing better at the moment, this would’ve been a great point to finish a post that started by talking about food…). A lot of reviews and recommendations are basically adverts hiding in plain sight. That article about the five best trail shoes – nearly always those brands have paid to be in those magazines.

So, I think I’m going to start writing reviews on the things I’ve been getting into recently (still recommend Best Leftovers and The Chef Show) but they will only be my experiences and for the most part, I will try and not be negative.

In the past, when I used to do more of this, I sometimes got sent products to try and they weren’t good. But these were often small businesses trying to make a living from a garage or a business estate in Wycombe (sorry, first average place I could think of) so why would I slate them in public. There are literally tens of people that read this blog, imagine the damage it might to their company!

It sometimes felt dishonest not to be open about what I thought but I think the old adage is true, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

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