Strengths: Its claim to be "for the Compleat Idiot" doesn't disappoint - Parker takes the summaries of all the works of the masters of heart rate monitor training and reduces them to two training zones - "easy" (over 70%WHR) and "hard" (over 85%WHR). The result is a training regime on which beginner runners (I *do* think this book can only be recommended to complete - or "Compleat" - novices) can safely and logically make progress.
Weaknesses: 70%, 85%, er, that's it. The remainder is mostly padding, irritating smart@rse American-style wisecracking and a series of personal testimonies which, when you read them closely, are no more than the stories of a handful of quite good runners who got a little bit faster by training consistently using the hard/easy principle in a form which just happened to be the one endorsed by Parker. Much of the "science" is plausible but unproven.
Overall: Overhyped, overpriced and over here. I gather it's in short supply. You can have my copy for £80 including UK mainland postage ;o) Seriously, it is to HRM training what the street-evangelists' tracts are to the Bible. A useful introduction, but not the whole story.
Strengths: Very lightweight socks, but with a little cushioning at the heels and toes where it's needed and a beautiful anatomically-shaped fit. Ideal socks for summer training and longer races. RU4s have been around for several years and I've found mine extremely comfortable and hardwearing. The Attacks perform every bit as well as the standard white and black RU4s.
Overall: Falke make a fantastic range of sport-specific socks, and the RU4s are probably the most popular of their running socks. They're a good all-purpose lightweight sock, but if you're looking for something even less bulky to shave off those crucial few grams in races, there's the RU5 and the anatomically shaped but uncushioned RU6 :o)
Strengths: Lovely socks - single-skin, and fitting neatly without any seams or abrasive edges. I've worn a pair of these for a hilly 100k without developing any blisters, and they perform almost as well with fell-shoes as they do with road shoes. They're also very durable.
Weaknesses: Slightly too heavy for racing, but a sock can't be everything to everyone all the time :o)
Overall: I've been wearing RU3s as my everyday training socks for several years and have never had any problems with them. In fact, despite generally being devoid of brand loyalty it would take a great deal to entice me away from the Falke socks range, be it for climbing, trekking or skiing.
'AESTHETICALLY PLEASING, COMFORTABLE AND EFFECTIVE.'
Strengths: Much better-looking than most sports bras. I would happily wear this instead of a crop-top or vest-with-integral-support as an outergarment. The removable padding (nice touch!) prevents nipple-display. For my size (32B) the control is adequate for running, though for more generously-endowed ladies it would only be effective for lower-impact activities, which is what the company recommends anyway.
Weaknesses: Product availability on the internet very patchy. I got a discontinued coral and black version at the FLM Expo but the interesting colourways seem to attract an "out of stock" tag very quickly, at least in my size. The side-hooks are a little more fiddly than back or front fastenings.
Overall: An excellent bra for a relatively modest £23.99. I think it's worth paying a few pounds more than the typical price of a basic support bra from a non-specialist supplier to get a prodict that looks and feels as good as this one.
Strengths: Written in a pleasant, friendly tone, and the information and advice, while lightly presented, is accurate and credible.
Weaknesses: Very American, with lots of little popcorn testimonies from women "empowered" by running, which I found toe-curlingly twee. Overloaded with anecdotes about the author's own running career and life, and though she sounds like a very likeable and engaging lady, anyone who can recommend blueberries as a substitute for chocolate with an apparently straight face isn't living in the real world. Or has only ever tasted American chocolate ;o)
Overall: An ideal first book on running for women whose usual hangout in the bookshop is the self-help section. And for readers of both sexes who like to see decorative photographs of slender women doing stretches.
Strengths: The chapter that explains the rationale behind the different types of training run is unsurpassed anywhere. The schedules, though demanding in terms of time invested, are simple - lots of miles and a little marathon-specific speedwork.
Weaknesses: The occasional wisecracks are incongruous and irritating, and the section on hydration is based on out-of-date myths rather than research evidence. Disappointing amount of padding in the form of repetition of the text for each training plan.
Overall: The yield of useful information per inch of print in this book is phenomenal and it's an easy read. If you'd rather be running than reading about running, let this be the one book you buy. As the title suggests, it doesn't really belong in the same shopping basket as the works of Sam Murphy or John Bingham! It's ideal for the non-elite marathoner who wants to run the best marathon that his/her genetic potential will allow.
Strengths: Neutral, light and responsive - a really nice shoe that's a welcome addition to the range of performance shoes available for women.
Overall: I thought this would be a perfect lightweight shoe for me, since I wear Nike Percepts for most of my training, but what cushioning it has is in the wrong places, leaving my metatarsal heads uncomfortably close to the tarmac, a problem I don't have with the Marathoner or the Vaporfly.
Strengths: Lightweight, plenty of room in the toe-box. I have wide feet with a high instep and can't wear Walshes or NB fell-shoes, but can wear thick trekking socks comfortably inside my Terrocs, which means they've rendered my Big Brown Boots all but redundant except for in crampon-requiring conditions.
Weaknesses: Like other reviewers, I find it a bit niggly around my heel, and especially on my malleoli, when contouring. Not brilliant on wet rock. Uppers rubbed to a state of fluffiness by undergrowth, but this is a cosmetic rather than a performance problem.
Overall: These are my footwear of choice for winter hillwalking and trail-running when it's mostly on paths and tracks. I'd choose Mudrocs for more challenging excursions.
Strengths: Lots of carbs and a little protein. Pleasant texture - chewy enough but not hard work. Coped better than the SiS GO bar with cold conditions - I haven't subjected it to the Stored-Beside-The-Radiator Test yet.
Weaknesses: Unpleasant, slightly chemical taste. If I hadn't read the ingredients list, I'd have assumed it contained artificial sweetener.
Overall: I'm sure it does what it says on the label, but wouldn't eat one of these in preference to a handful of fig rolls.
Strengths: The cherry vanilla flavour is particularly delicious! I have no problem reaching for one of these instead of a couple of shortbread biscuits with my coffee. I like the fact that they have a reasonable amount of protein as well as carbs. Whether or not they have any effect on performance is, I think, still a matter of faith rather than science!
Weaknesses: They turn into rock in cold weather and become very sticky in hot weather.