Archive

Tag Archives: Centurion Running

As anyone who knows me I buy more running and training gear than is normal, it has gotten to the point now where I no longer have any real clothes – I have only running, hiking, swimming and activity kit. The few bits of real clothing I own are locked away in a cupboard somewhere and they almost never come out, my work clothes are on a bit of a rotation and I replace them only as they wear out – however, I’m not here to discuss the details of my wardrobe – no – I’m here to discuss some of the excellent retailers I have purchased from this year and perhaps the reasons I avoid other retailers

Sportsshoe.com
I’ve bought several pairs of running shoes from these guys, including my much loved and also much maligned S-Lab Sense trail shoes. These guys offer great value for money, they offer excellent service and I’ve never had a single days problem with them. Their website is pretty simple to navigate, although the top navigation could do with a little bit of clarity, perhaps the fact there is more than running gear here is the reason it can feel a little cluttered but it has never stopped me from finding the things I want and the payment system is quick and easy. Highly Recommended.

Wiggle
I only discovered Wiggle this year and despite a stupid name it offers excellent prices and excellent products. I was able to source my Suunto Ambit 2 from these guys at less than £300 and have purchased several excellent running tops from them. Their site tends to be crammed with goodies but it can be a bit of a chore going through it all and my recent search for gaiters led me to try elsewhere. However, the service is impeccable and incredibly speedy. These are good guys to buy kit from and the regular sales they run are generally very genuine. Perhaps the best bit is the inclusion of little Haribo sweets in their deliveries.

Sports Pursuit
There is something about trawling through my hundreds of early morning emails that I don’t mind and that thing is the offers that Sports Pursuit insist on sending me. Now this may sound like a bad thing, but it isn’t. Again this is a retailer I discovered only this year and while you are required to wait a little longer for your products they offer great value items that you can’t get elsewhere. Skora runners and Vibram Fivefingers have been my primary purchases from them during 2013 and each purchase has been excellent. It’s fair to say that sizes can difficult to come by sometimes and the returns are a little haphazard in what happens (there is no guarantee on return that they can get you a different size) but SportsPursuit are clear in their endeavour – bringing you great stuff at a decent price. Communication is excellent, packaging and delivery is excellent – what more could you ask for.

Centurion Running
What an ultra runner really wants from his shopping experience is people who know what they are on about. The Centurion store is not jammed to the rafters with kit – no. It has a couple of choices in key categories. So for example if you want a running vest/bag they have Salomon or Ultimate Directions, both of which are very high quality products and both used by in the ultra community. Additionally this was the easiest place I could find to buy Harveys Maps! It’s also nice not having to wade through oodles of crap choices and they have lovely communication, great customer service and speedy delivery. The fact that Centurion is run by runners for runners really shows and I’m very much looking forward to further purchases and events with them in 2014.

Ultra Marathon Running Store
A bit like the Centurion store really in that it covers a great selection of good quality gear but with a little more choice (and the home of Dirty Girl Gaiters in the UK). Service and delivery are top notch and you feel it’s good value for money. Again they tend not to fill their site with things that ultra runners won’t use – we get a range of products at various price points. No complaints about this store whatsoever. I shall be looking forward to further purchases in the near future.

Decathlon
This is a bit of strange one, I’ve got some running Tshirts that are nearly a decade old from Decathlon that cost about £2.50 each and they rock but these days I find their running kit no longer fits me very well, but they do a great range of bikes and this year alone I have bought a rockrider, a triban and a hybrid (for my OH). I’m also a fan of their general equipment, things like lights, bandages, tapes, locks, etc and they do a decent range of swim kit – though I prefer mainly their speedo stuff. The great thing is that Decathlon staff are generally pretty well trained and not only know their own sporting area but also a bit about other departments. Add in regular vouchers and competitions through their loyalty card and actually you have a company that seems on the face of it to care. The letdown is their website which seems to have been built by a six year old or had a management hand in the navigation. Once you drill down to product pages it’s all pretty good but finding stuff is a nightmare. With. Decathlon I’d always say try and visit a store as the experience is so much better.

Sweatshop
These guys have been a bit a bit of a class act for several years and although I’m not as regular a shopper there as I used to be I still find them pretty darn good and with a good selection of items. I suppose though that Sweatshop has been a victim of its own success via both growth and attempting to be all things to all runners. This means that there is a decent range from beginner to very experienced runner but not as much depth as you might like, it feels quite mainstream – although saying this I have seen more obscure products like On Cloudrunners, Nathan running vests and Salomon S Lab clothing in store over recent months and this was also the store I got all my OMM packs from. Sweatshop remains the best of the major high street running stores. However, on a couple of occasions (and a less positive note) I have noticed in store there has been a lack of running knowledge, especially in younger members of staff, however, I am still a reasonably regular visitor to Bluewater, Dartford, Rathbone Place and Trump Street and these guys have always been on top of things, so when considering a store to purchase from where you can try things on, these guys remain good.

Run and Become
I’m a bit of sucker for a good shoe collection and great service and this is something that you always get from Run and Become. The staff are all runners, all very knowledgable (at least in the London store I go to), they have a great range of products in store and there is a feeling that they wouldn’t sell you a shoe that wasn’t fit for purpose. These guys are so popular that there is often a reasonable wait to be seen by the staff but it is worth it. My last purchase was some Vibram FiveFingers and Injinji socks and what I received was not only the basic back story to the shoes but also a bit of knowledge about the lady serving me, who was also a VFF user. If you happen to be near St. James Park and are in need of some kit or just to view some running porn – this is the place 🙂

Pete Bland Sports
Pete Bland will be getting more of my business in 2014, great service and quick delivery and a website that despite a rather strange navigation it just works. I bought my first pair of Hoka from Pete Bland Sports and they generally have a great range of running gear but being based in the Lake District is the thing that makes me love them as the Lakes are just about my favourite place in the entire universe. The little thing I loved the most was the later Twitter interaction about my experiences with the running shoes I had purchased. Classy

Cotswold Outdoor / Ellis Brigham / Snow & Rock
No good if what you are looking for is road running materials but if you are looking for trail running kit then Cotswold Outdoor, Ellis Brigham and Snow & Rock are pretty fine. All have a good range of footwear, clothing and accessories covering brands like OMM, Rab, Salomon, Hoka and Inov8. If you are in London then all three can be found with big stores in the heart of Covent Garden and all have highly trained staff who generally know what they are talking about and if they don’t they’ll get someone that does. Each of these stores has provided me with key pieces of kit over the last year or so and will continue to do so. In terms of online then I find Cotswold to be the easiest to navigate and find what I’m looking for but both Ellis Brigham and Snow & Rock offer excellent online services.

Sports Direct
I do have one bugbear though and that is Sports Direct. I find myself disheartened every time I walk past one of their stores and if I ever find myself in need of going in to one I generally find myself leaving quickly without purchase. I know some will argue that they offer competitively priced equipment but I find what little Karrimor equipment I do own never gets worn because it just isn’t as well made as some of the similarly priced clothing from Sweatshop or Decathlon – this of course is just an opinion but it is based on the experience and longevity and general feeling of the kit. The worst part of the experience is the staff don’t appear interested in whether you are being sold suitable footwear, suitable equipment or your general well being as a customer. I haven’t bought much here for quite some time and I don’t see myself heading back there anytime soon. Overall a disappointing retail experience.

Favourites?
Anyway, there are lots of very good retailers out there, these are just some of my personal favourites and ones that I have gone back to time and again. I’m sure you’ve all got your favourites and I’m always keen to learn about new places offering useful kit, great advice and most importantly brilliant customer service.

20131010-064717 pm.jpg

There are very few pieces of equipment that fill me with as much joy as my signature series Ultimate Directions race vest. Perhaps my Hoka, maybe my original Adidas Adios or maybe my first OMM 25l bag but these all felt very real, things that could be used in a day to day scenario either for training or going to work, the UD Signature Series doesn’t feel like that, the UD vest feels like something you wear when you are racing or hitting the ail big time. I’ll point out that I am a regular user of the vest but there is something that makes you heart skip a beat when you put on a piece of kit like this because it helps get you into the zone.

Anyway enough of my gushing, this is a very simple review based on my experiences with the UD Peter Bakwin signature series vest. I’m not a professional athlete, I’m not even a decent ultra runner but I run regularly, race often and want good, value added kit to ensure that my collection steadily grows.

Let’s start with some specifications of the product and go from there:

FEATURES (FRONT)
– GPS Pouch (buttons accessible)
– Bottle holsters can carry 26 oz.
– Gel or bar pouches (4)
– Electrolyte or valuables pocket (2)
– Fully adjustable Sternum Straps (2)
– Emergency whistle

FEATURES (BACK)
– Cuben Fiber bellows for large or small loads
– Secure Lat Pockets, with full pocket behind (2)
– Two sizes main compartments
– Single pull bungee compresses entire pack
– Trekking pole (2) and Ice Axe loop (1)

SPECIFICATIONS
Volume Capacity: 12L
Fluid Capacity: 2 x 591 mL / 2 x 20 oz. bottles
Weight: 340 g (496 g with bottles) / 12 oz. (17.5 oz. with bottles)
Height: 41 cm
Width: 23 cm
Depth: 11 cm

I specifically bought this bag a a replacement for my OMM Ultra 15, which as a bag I love to bits but as a race bag it sits quite low on my frame and I find the need to have a map pouch permanently attached to me which makes the bag difficult to remove during a race – so much so that during the White Cliffs 50 I need the aid of some of the support crew to help me back into my bag. Let me make it clear though, my OMM 15 is my current daily use bag and often my first choice race bag, but for the ultra distances I felt I needed something that reduced movement event further, was lighter and built specifically with the ultra marathoner in mind. My search was extensive and I looked up bags and vests from manufacturers like OMM, Salomon (whose range is outstandingly good), Nathan and even Decathlon.

It was while looking for new and interesting races that I stumbled across the Centurion Running website and there was a fairly small but well packed shop with goodies just destined for my basket – but the thing that caught my eye where the Ultimate Directions race vests. Not only where they in the same price bracket as the Salomon but they had a rather nice colour way that made me think they’d look rather nice on. The fact that the bag was jammed to the rafters with technology and innovative features was simply a bonus to me.

I made my order from Centurion Running as they were offering it at both a decent price and my fellow tweeter @abradypus recommends them and their events and as a consequence I wanted to support an organisation doing good things rather than give my money to taxation specialists Amazon. It arrived very swiftly but like the muppet I am I had ordered the wrong size – bugger. But credit where it is due centurion simply took back the item and replaced it with the M/L version which I knew would fit me right in the sweet spot – and that is a not a euphemism.

Of course I was keen to try it the moment it arrived but I tend to carry a lot into work and the 8litre capacity of the main compartment probably wasn’t going to be enough – so I waited patiently for the weekend and on the Saturday morning set out for my long slow run, I say long it was probably about 20 miles but enough for me to consider that I would need to take liquid with me and a few bits of kit like a waterproof incase the weather turned heavy on me during the height of summer.

I put the pack on, fiddled a little with the two small front clips and a slight adjustment to the single cord tightening system and I was ready. The first things I noticed was that vest was tight to my back and by tight i simply mean that it didn’t move, it used my form and followed me, even when loaded it remained a balanced pack and there was no bouncing around. Adjustments are simple to achieve too once you’ve got the hang of not having dozens of straps floating about and it is in this quality engineering that you can see that Ultimate Directions have really thought about how the back is going to come together. I added my two water bottles to the front of the vest and filled each of the pockets with suitable items and set off for a great run. The truth is that I barely knew the bag was there. My one complaint was that I couldn’t figure out how to get the water out of the bottles and had to unscrew the buggers, a nuisance but more down to user error than anything else.

Upon returning home I was able to strip the pack down a bit and start kit testing for the Thames Gateway 100. Despite being an ultra runner I tend to carry too much stuff, I prefer to be prepared and carry a few extra items rather than drop the weight I’m carrying but sacrifice essential items. The back of the pack was perfect for this, straight in went my Montane minimus jacket, first aid kit, head torches, iPad mini! spare socks, arm warmers, mobile charging device, maps and waterproof trousers. In the outer mesh I was able to place a small wind proof jacket and had I really needed it I could have added another small item of clothing to the compression straps that run over the back. Into the side pockets I added a buff, some electrical cables such as my Garmin and iPhone charger and a little bit of food. more food was added to the side pockets of the water bottle front pouches and I still had room for my mobile phone and further food stuffs. Still though there was a bit of room … UD say they have built in a space for ice axes and cheat sticks/hiking poles but I use the Black Diamond Z pole which are not telescopic and so are reasonably bulky. However, using the two side pockets and flicking the cheat sticks under the straps means you can have your cheat sticks to hand. Interestingly even fully loaded the bag feels lightweight, good on the back and most importantly comfortable. It was perhaps the one good thing that came out of my DNF at the TG100 that the bag came through we flying colours and solved the problem of me being able to take off my bag whenever I wanted to.

There are so many twists and loops on this pack that you think you will never actually fill them all, but it is a testament to the team who put this together that they know what runners want and need that nothing feels wasted. A brief note on the water bottles is that they like the bag are fantastic, they feel clean, taste good and the grip is excellent. The issue I had was that I neglected to pull the water feeder up and therefore found it difficult to get water out on my first trial of the pack – a brief internet search put me right and am convinced that these bottles are possibly the best ones I own.

I’ve seen some reviews that say the gel pockets on the side of the bottle pouches can ping the gels out but I didn’t find this but then I would be more likely to store biscuits or jelly babies in there. I’d love to find a downside with the pack but simply can’t, perhaps the fact it isn’t waterproof would be an issue for some but then you have to balance weight against materials used and I think the Ultimate Directions PB is a perfectly balanced pack.

Do remember it won’t be for everyone and at over £100 and possibly as much as £125 it is an expensive piece of kit but it is very worthwhile if you are distance runner and looking for a dedicated bag this might just be for you. For more information search on YouTube for the Peter Bakwin Ultimate Directions video and see the pack in action or visit this URL http://youtu.be/ILcv7D_Yq80

The pack is available for many good online retailer such as the Centurion Running. Enjoy.

20131010-064828 pm.jpg

20131010-064853 pm.jpg

Ultra trails

Ultra marathon runner turned blogger

Pyllon - ultra runner

Seeking asylum in the hills & transcendence on the trails

Empty

Empty

The Runtron Diaries

Running. Cake. Random.

Gabrielle Outdoors

Journeys of a varying kind

highlandrunnerblog.wordpress.com/

An introduction to ultra running

Running on Full

Random thoughts, used to be about running

Re-Activate

Rule 11: When the job's done, walk away

Bearded bimbler

A runner, a hiker and a bearded man

Inadvertent Mooning

Observations from the Grumpy side of UltraRunning

The Unprofessional Ultra Runner

My attempt to crack some serious challenges in an unserious manner

LifeAthlon

“Life Is An Endurance Event”

rara's rules for living

Swim, bike, run, fun!

An academic in (running) tights

Blogs on education and running: My two passions

"Keep Running Mummy!"

Motherhood, marathons and more

Franky Reloaded

The Phoenix Who Rises

Val's running blog

The trials and tribulations of a Jolly Jogger

be back in a bit, have biscuits ready

I like running, and feel the need to write about it

marathoncomeback

After a short break of 23 years I have registered to run the Melbourne Marathon.

knittysewandsew

Amateur wrangling with sewing machines, wool, fabric and thread. Some baking too!