Personal Best 101: Tips to your fastest 5k #1 – The Warm Up

PersonalBest101_5KThe 5km Time Trial is a classic weekly event on every running clubs schedule. Both back of the packers and racing snakes love to use these to get in a good quality workout and to test their progress when preparing for longer events.

Fast and slow alike love to crack a personal best over the 5km time trial, so over the next 6 weeks I will be offering weekly tips to help you do just that:

Tip #1 – The Warm Up

To run a fast time trial your body needs to be ready to run hard from the word go. In order to do that, it is important to prepare your body for the hard running to come with a good warm up.

The pre-run warmup does more than just warm your body enough so that you are able to brave removing your tracksuit.

It also:

  • Increases blood flow to the muscles enhancing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients.
  • Stimulates the energy-releasing reactions used during running and makes the muscles suppler.
  • Prepares your muscles, joints and tendons for greater range of motion.
  • Raises your heart rate, preparing your heart for the increase in exertion.
  • Focuses your mind for the upcoming hard effort.
  • Primes your nerve-to-muscle pathways to be ready for running.

How to do a warmup:

Allow at least 15 minutes for your warm up. The fitter you are and faster you plan to run, the longer the warm up you will require. Plan to finish your warm up just before the start of the 5km, otherwise you will cool down again and lose a lot of the benefit of the warm up.

Start with very light jogging and gradually increase the effort every minute so that in the last 3 minutes you are running only slightly slower than your planned 5km time trial effort. This run will be 10-15 minutes long depending on your fitness level.

legswingsFollow the jog with a few dynamic stretches for example: leg swings, arm swings, walking lunges, bum flicks.

If you are a very serious racing snake then finish off with 4 x 100m acceleration runs.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

Go smash that PB now!

Coach Kathleen


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Secret Reflections

23847574_1351707124956192_6029345910758114268_o-e1512475338127.jpgAt the end of another coaching year it is time to reflect on training and racing successes and challenges of the different athletes I have guided, refine what worked and rethink what did not.

I have put together a short list of my reflections, runners who follow these principles have had great success and hopefully their is a secret or two in there that will help you to reach your own goals in 2018!

The not surprising find is that the secrets remain the simple steps repeated consistently over time. Simple running, high running!

  1. Nothing conditions the body and mind for running like running. Those that consistently get out and run, every day, every week, every month, get results.
  2. Fatigue management is key for the above mentioned consistency and for maximum performance on race day. Hitting the start line fresh and hungry is more important than how many training miles you have logged.
  3. There are no shortcuts. Training schedules that promise to get you to the finish line in only … x (insert small number)… weeks or on only …x (insert again small number)… minutes a day are great for selling magazines,  but terrible for completion rates, not to mention injury and illness risk.
  4. The legendary LSD (long slow distance) run remains a cornerstone session for all distances from 800m to ultra marathons.
  5. The simplest, safest and most effective quality session for your average club runner is hill repeats.
  6. Injuries do not come right by simple resting.
  7. Spending time on improving mobility (especially around the hips) is key for performance and injury prevention.
  8. The best fuel for running is carbohydrate.
  9. Stay in your lane. That is, sticking to the plan that is best for your body instead of copying someone else’s training. Trust the training process and your body!
  10. Last, but definitely not least – HAVE FUN!!!!

Onwards an upwards into 2018!

Coach Kathleen



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Gear Review: Patagonia W’s Nine Trail Shorts

Patagonia shortsAs someone who practically lives in running gear I am always curious when a new brand makes an appearance. One such brand recently launched in Cape Town is Patagonia, available exclusively at Gone. Outdoor.  I have always preferred the classic jogger short to tights, so was very excited to try out the Nines on the trail.

Before I even put them on I loved their color aptly called “Rivermouth Radar Blue” – energetic, bold, free and fun.

These shorts are super light and soft and the moisture management is of the best. Shorts were still bone dry at the end of the run, no chafing and most importantly – no riding up!

Plus – the fabric is from 91% recycled material so you are saving the environment we love to run in!

The rear zip pocket is generous enough for keys and an energy gel or two rounding off an overall  great trail short.

This is top quality gear, so while the price is a bit higher than usual, the Nines will definitely last years of trail happiness.

Check out the rest of this exciting new range here 

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First Things First

FirstthingsMost runners at some point or other want to run a little faster. Whether it is a sub 5 hour marathon or sub 90 min half-marathon, we all (well most) want to push the limits at least once.

What I find tends to happen when this need for speed arises, is runners immediately start thinking track workouts, HIIT, hills till you drop, puke or go home – the thought process being, the closer I come to death, the faster i am going run. (or the faster you are going to end up over-trained or injured?)

Now any seasoned runner will proudly share details of many grueling, eye popping workouts that made them faster, but before hurtling headlong down that road, which without the basics is likely to dead end at the physios, make sure you are taking care of FIRST THINGS FIRST:


Some questions to tick before adding high intensity training –

  • Are you regularly running regularly?

To improve your running, you want to be doing at least 4 runs a week, every week .

  • Are you running long?

Once running regularly, doing a run of 1 hour or longer once a week is your next step towards being a stronger, faster runner. Get the lowdown here.

  • How efficient is your running technique?

Getting some basic tips from a coach on how to use less effort with every step will not only help you run faster, but also reduce injury risk and make running overall more enjoyable.

  • How mobile are you?

A stuck body is going nowhere slowly and is also at high risk of injury, which means training interrupt. Move free.

  • Are you getting out of your comfort zone (sometimes)?

Before doing complicated interval workouts, first challenge yourself by upping the pace on sections of your regular runs, or run different challenging routes and distances.

If you ticked all of the above then you are ready to Pass Go, but watch out for these common mistakes:

  • Hard training that is not specific to your running goal

With the high intensity fitness industry boom, there are many fancy programs promising great rewards. Even running magazines are full of great get fast routines. The question you need to ask is, “How is the session preparing my body for the specific physical demands of my running goal?”

  • Doing too much too soon

Suddenly putting a very big load on your body that you are not conditioned for, is counter productive. You will do all that hard work only to loose it when you are sidelined with injury or illness.

  • Not allowing enough time for recovery

Hammering your body hard day in and day out is the equivalent of driving at high speed in reverse. See The Principle of Overload

Good luck and let me know how you get on.

Coach Kathleen


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snooker-1274749_640Every runner has a bad day once in a while, but if you are finding that despite training well, you keep not getting it right on race day, the question that you need to ask yourself is:

What play keeps getting me snookered?

There are many factors involved in having a great race. To help you narrow down where you could be making mistakes, I have listed a few common snooker questions that you can ask yourself:


  • Are you practicing your race nutrition (fuel and hydration) strategy in training? And at race effort? (Training your gut)
  • What are you eating the day before and how does that compare to how you ate before training runs where you felt strong/weak?
  • Do you eat too little in your taper for fear of gaining weight?
  • Do you overeat the day before?
  • Are you eating enough/too much on the morning of the race?
  • Do you factor in that you probably get up earlier for a race than training and have the long wait on the start line, so burn extra energy?
  • Do you stick to the plan or keep trying new magic gels you bought at race expo?


  • Is your goal pace realistic relative to your training paces and times over recent time tests/races?
  • Do you even know your pace?
  • Have you worked out a realistic pace plan that takes the nature of the course and weather conditions into account?
  • Are you unknowingly being swept along with the crowd at too fast a pace in the beginning?
  • Do you get psyched up by the crowd and suddenly start thinking you are a Kenyan and set a new unrealistic goal?
  • Do you start too far back and keep losing time fighting the crowds in the first km’s?


  • Do you have a strategy or just go with the flow?
  • Do you have your own plan or are you following someone else’s?
  • Do you have a plan B?
  • Do you focus on the end result or the process of the plan in your race?
  • Does your training condition you for the specific demands of the race (distance, course profile, pace…)?


  • Do you allow enough time for your body to recover from the hard training before the race?
  • Have you been in the valley of fatigue so long you don’t even know you are there?

Over resting:

  • Do you do so little in the week leading up to the race that you always feel sluggish?


  • Are you always overthinking the race and using up too much nervous energy?


  • Are you conditioned for the specific demands of the race?
  • Do you have a muscle weakness that you need to address? (Cramping is mostly the result of fatigue in the muscle)

Hope these questions help. If you are still struggling to pin down what is getting you down, then please pop me a mail and hopefully I can help.

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon: Race Day, Navigating the final 56km of Your Jouney

The Startline: Ready Steady…Waiting to go already

20170406_001620-1The long wait in your starting pen can feel a bit like finally getting to the front of the rollercoaster queue, the reality of what lies ahead is sending a mass migration of butterflies through your stomach, but you know you have not come this far to turn back now. 

The  most important at this point is to expend as little physical and emotional energy as possible – here are some tips:

Keep warm and dry: The mornings are quite chilly in Cape Town now. Take along an old long sleeve top you don’t mind discarding forever (someone along the route will appreciate the lucky find) or you can go with the traditional black bag.

Sit down for as long as space in your pen allows.

Don’t think about the race too much. I like to just kind of blank out and enjoy the colorful crowd gathering around me.  Try to keep emotions neutral. Poker face!

Have a bottle of energy drink with you to sip on or a light snack like a banana or food bar. You want to keep the liver glycogen topped up.

0 to 10km: Time flies by, you should not

Watch your pace! With the atmosphere, fresh legs and downhills in the first 10k, it is very easy to be swept along at a pace way faster than your plan. But what if I am feeling good you ask? Of course you are feeling good, you have trained for 56km! But…still have 46 to go! Time in the bank now is double time in the morgue later.
Even if your first 2 or 3k are a bit slow due to congestion, don’t try to make up time, just settle into goal pace and continue as per plan.  

10km to 21.1km: Establishing a rhythm

At this stage the route is still fairly flat and the legs fresh so you need to remain aware of unwittingly going faster than planned. The hype and congestion are passed and this is the time to settle down into your race pace rhythm. It is also the time if you have not yet begun, to start refueling and re-hydrating at regular intervals (again as per plan!)

21.1km to 28km: This is where the tortoise beat the hare

This is the point where the first bit of impatience is likely to set in. It is a fairly fast stretch and also not the most exciting, so the temptation (if you are feeling strong which I hope you are!) is to start pushing here. Don’t! Just remember the tortoise and the hare. Enough said. 

This is also a critical stretch for checking on your fuelling and hydration. Remember your body can only absorb small amounts at a time, so once you hit empty, it is not a matter of just filling up again. 

28km to 33km: Slow and steady

You want to be reaching halfway at approximately half of goal time minus 5 – 8 minutes. The 2nd half is slower, but run the first half too fast and the second will be very very too much slower. 

This is the point where you reach your first big climb of the day. Keep in mind that it has a fake peak at top of Little Chappies and then then real climb only starts. Once you pass under the tunnel, you are near the real top.

Aim to maintain a constant steady effort (as opposed to pace) all the way up. Think steady marching rhythm. Keep your head up and eyes looking about 10m ahead of you, focusing on maintaining a tall posture with nice open chest and steady arm drive. 

33km to 38km: Approaching the real halfway

Congratulations! You have conquered the first climb! You can now actually appreciate the view as you relax down into Hout Bay. This is the next pace caution zone! Many runners have lost their legs here never to find them again! The pace will be a little faster than your average race pace, but should not be more than around 5-10s per k faster. Feel the effort. It should still feel controlled and relatively easy but not like you are braking (relax with gravity). If you start getting that racing snake feeling, SLOW DOWN!

38km to 42.2km: Keeping it together

I see Hout Bay as the real halfway as this is where, THE GRIND, starts. It is an uninspiring slightly uphill stretch to the marathon mark. Again, resist all temptation to push and get it over with. Self-control here is critical for a great climb up to Constantia nek.

Now is when the self talk starts. I always tell athletes, your brain must tell your body what it is going to do, not the other way around.  Immediately silence every voice that says you can’t do this, give an air punch and tell your body LETS GO! WE GONNA DO THIS!

The most important is not to dwell on the negative feelings, neither to try distract yourself. Focus inwards on your breathing, your posture, your arm carry, the way your feet are striking, listen for the rhythm until you are dancing again. 

42.2km to 46km: Onwards and Upwards

Shortly after the marathon mark the infamous climb up to Constantia Nek begins. While much shorter than Chapman’s peak, the climb comes much later in the race and is significantly steeper. This is the stretch where the front runners start getting ready to make their big final moves while the rest of us mere mortals dig deep to just keep moving forwards. And that is exactly what you need to do, just keep moving forwards. The famous phrase “ONWARDS AND UPWARDS” is your mantra for conquering the climb. And just like eating an elephant, take it one bend at a time. 

Enjoy the atmosphere at the top, it is wild! But don’t linger too long, the home stretch awaits.

46km to 50km (Kirstenbosch top gate): Momentum is your friend

Gather loads of positive vibes from the run through at the nek and make use of that and the few downhill dips on Rhodes drive to gather new momentum. 

The road is quite steeply banked in places, so if possible, run as close to the edge, where it is flatter, as you can.

50km to 53km (Home stretch on the M3)

You now have just more than a Park run to go! You can do this! For real! 

A lovely downhill stretch awaits. Although at this stage you might actually be wondering if uphill is not easier. Most important, you will have great crowds to urge you along. Use the energy and keep telling your body “LET’S GO!”

53km to THE FINISH

Many refer to this stretch as the toughest as it is a bit of an uphill, but don’t let that get you down, you are half a parkrun away from UCT, your finishers medal and an ice-cold (fill in beverage of choice here). Imagine your friends and family cheering you home, the announcer saying your name, the feeling of lying down on the cool grass, whatever positive thoughts you can conjure up in your sugar depleted semi zombie state. Oh yes, keep moving forwards!


You made it! Whether you did a PB or PW, you completed a journey that over 90% of the populus will never even start. Well well done it!

Till next year – ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

Wishing you a joy filled run

Coach Kathleen



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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon – The Last 48 Hours

In the next week and a bit, clubhouses around the country will be abuzz with nervous banter and last minute advice for conquering ‘The World’s most beautiful marathon’. Not to mention a flood of social media feeds from the organizers. All before you even walk into running candy land at the race expo! Before you know it, you will be questioning your strategy and fighting temptation to change the plan or try some new product.hourglass-1046841_1280

So my first bit of advice for the final 48 hours is: Make your pre-race and race plans well ahead of time and then – “STAY IN YOUR LANE!”

Apart from politely nodding and then ignoring all your new expert advisers and safely  getting through race expo without purchasing any new “magic” gels, what are the most important points for the last 48 hours so as not to undo all the hard training?

  1. Feet up! Minimize walking and standing as much as possible. Especially on the Thursday. These are the 2 days of the year where you will be rewarded (with a great race) for doing less than 10000 steps.
  2. Do the bulk of your carboloading on the Wednesday and Thursday. Finish up with a good carbohydrate meal at lunch on the Friday and from there just light topping up.
  3. Get to bed early on the Thursday night. No matter how early you go to bed Friday, you are likely to be waking up every hour to check the time!
  4. Do a light run on the Friday morning (This is the only time you should not be horizontal!), this helps to get the metabolism going and prevents that sluggish, bloated feeling one can get from resting. Ignore all the little niggles, they are ghost pains and your mind playing tricks.
  5. Avoid talking and thinking about the race all the time. This will only create unnecessary nervous energy, especially if you are a novice. Find some restful distractions like a movie (not Chariots of fire!), hang out on the couch with your spouse and kids or read a good (non running) book.
  6. Set out your race kit and nutrition on the Friday evening already. Numbers pinned to vest and very very important, your timing chip tied to your shoe!
  7. Go carefully over your logistics for getting to the start line, parking, meeting friends and family afterwards etc. Take into account the extra race day traffic and plan time for things like that last toilet visit and congestion at the start pens.
  8. Be prepared for all weather conditions and pack the necessary extra gear into your race bag (rain jacket, black bag/throw away top for the early morning chill etc.). Also pack a few light energy  snacks and water keeping in mind that you will have a longer than usual wait between arriving and the start.
  9. Put out your breakfast snack and coffee the night before so you don’t waste time in the morning.
  10. Set 2 alarms and then make a decision to trust your body and relax. If you trained hard and rested up, you’ve got this!


Watch out for my next post coming very soon where I will be doing a walk through of the route from start to finish and how to approach it.

Happy Tapering!

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon 2017 – TAPER TIME

countdownWith just a little more than three weeks to go till Two Oceans 2017, all the hard work is done and it is time to start focusing on getting to the start line fresh, healthy and strong. The temptation is always there to squeeze in just a little extra training thinking it will give you extra confidence on race day. Unfortunately it is more likely to flip you over into the red over trained zone. Always keep in mind:

It is better to arrive on the start line 5% undertrained than 1% overtrained.

As you start to cut back on the training and your body starts to relax, your immune system will also let down the guard a bit. It is therefore important in this time to get in plenty of good nutrition and sleep and to minimize other potential stressors as far as possible.

This is also not the time to try anything new!

In the last 3 weeks reduce your mileage while maintaining the frequency (this is very important to prevent feeling sluggish on race day!)  of training. ie. if you were training 4 days a week, continue to train 4 days but cut back the mileage. A good general guideline is as follows –

With 3 weeks to go – do 75% of your usual weekly mileage, with 2 weeks to go – do 50% of your usual mileage, in the last week follow a schedule of short runs with a few acceleration runs.

This weekend (3 weeks to go) should be your last very long LSD and should be at the most 36km. If you did a big one with 4 weeks to go, only do a 20km. A long run of 40k or more takes at least 4 weeks to recover from ! With two weeks to go – do no more than 1 and a half hours on your feet,  only 40 minutes.

If you were doing strength work in the gym – cut back to light bodyweight exercises in the 3rd week before the race and in the last 2 weeks use your gym time to focus on activities that aid recuperation such as foam rolling and gentle stretching (Or just chill out in the coffee bar!).

Warning!: You mind will start to play tricks on you the closer you get to race day, you will feel strange niggles, feel unfit, think you have gained 10 kilos etc. etc. Ignore those thoughts! If you have put in the long runs and rested up well, once that gun goes you will be firing on all 4 cylinders! So kick back, relax, enjoy the extra chill time on hand and TRUST YOUR BODY!

Below is a sample schedule for the last week before race day:

Sunday: Easy 30-40 minute run

Monday: REST

Tuesday: 5km at an easy pace. End of with a few short acceleration runs over 50-100m.

(If you are going for a massage before the race, it should be no later than the Tuesday, closer to the race and it can leave you feeling flat and sluggish)

Wednesday: 4km at an easy pace. End of with a few short acceleration runs over 50-100m.

Thursday: REST REST REST!!! This is the most important rest day. Feet up! If you must go to the expo then walk around as little as possible. Thursday is also the most important day to do most of your carboloading and to get to bed very very early.

Friday: 3km at an easy pace. End of with a few short acceleration runs over 50-100m.

Saturday: GO TIME!

Good luck and most important of all CELEBRATE THE JOURNEY!

Coach Kathleen


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The Paradoxicality of Runners

paradoxical – seemingly absurd or self-contradictory

marathon-1494648_960_720I, like many other runners,  have come to embrace that we are, a little strange, maybe crazy, most likely obsessive and very often seemingly absurd in our ways.

We moan and groan our way out of bed when the alarm goes off at 5:00 am for our morning run and then get depressed when we are sick and have to lie in.

We hate hill training, but are always wanting to get stronger on the hills.

We go cycling, swimming or hiking for rest.

The first item we pack when going on holiday is our running shoes!

We whinge about our aches and pains, but get even more upset when the physio tells us to run less or even worse, rest!

We will run 26 miles for fun but drive 1 mile to the grocery store (and park as close to the entrance as possible!)

We don’t like cold showers, but happily run for hours in the rain.

We can recite the exact mile splits of our last marathon at the drop of a hat, but struggle to remember birthdays and where last we left the car keys.

We non nonchalantly toss those “useless” race medals into a draw with the other hundreds of “useless” race medals and complain when we don’t get one at the finish.

We are the ultimate health nuts, but also the biggest coffee junkies (oh and that coke at the finish…mmm…so good).

The last finisher is normally celebrating more than the winner.

We annually enter races we swore we would never do again.

And, finally, no matter how much we are dying, we are always smiling on race photos. Because you see,  underneath all the sweating, moaning and suffering, we are actually have a whole lot of fun! It’s a crazy runner thing!

Here’s to many more paradoxical miles!

Coach Kathleen


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Mental Tenacity


I love to quote the famous Kenyan saying: “Train hard, race easy”, to my athletes. The other day though teenage wisdom spoke right back at me when one of my boys responded with, “Kathleen, a race always hurts”. He had summed up correctly. A race does always hurt, the guys in the front are just hurting at a much faster pace than the guys at the back. In fact, the super fit Kenyan like ones are probably hurting the most, that’s what makes them so good.

The legendary Steve Prefontaine, who was known for his superhuman pain threshold once remarked, “The best pace is a suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die.” 

In fact even if you are running well within your comfort zone pace, if you run long enough, things are going start hurting eventually.

The good news? The sense of victory and endorphin high from conquering the pain is pure gladiator like awesomeness! and that, is why, we love endurance running.

Now that you have embraced that it is gonna hurt, how can you challenge your mind to toughen up and stay focused?

  1. Get out of your comfort zone in training.
  2. Train with others that are slightly faster than you and hang on for your life!
  3. Push hard in the last 10-20 minutes of your LSD.
  4.  Run “over the top” of hills.
  5. Minimize stops and walk breaks.
  6. Set a few time/distance challenges and tell everyone you know that you are going to ace them.
  7. Do point to point runs that you cannot cut short. (running to and from work is a great option!)
  8. Run no matter how windy, hot or rainy. Just get out and run.
  9. Follow your morning LSD with an afternoon mountain hike.
  10. Run a really boring loop over and over again.

If you have any other great mind game ideas, post them in the comments. Would love to hear from you.

To the max!

Coach Kathleen


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Back to Basics

The start of another year generally heralds in the start of many things new. However, amidst all that is new, we can easily be enticed by many miracle promising  training methods, diets and gear, guaranteeing to get us to our goals for the year with less effort and less time, as long as we are willing to fork out a few $$$ for the monthly subscription to “a New Leaner Faster You”. Unfortunately many of these have great graphics and tag lines, but very little physiologically sound substance that will really make us leaner and faster runners.basics

I love reading the books of the great master coaches from the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. These guys possessed little to no technological garbly gook, what they did have, is solid physiology knowledge combined with incredible intuition into the effects of different training regimes on the human body. I believe that the lack of technology was actually valuable in this regard in that it forced the coach to continuously observe, analyse and think upon his athletes performance instead of just relying on the numbers. Read for yourself and you will see that in the end it all came down to patiently and consistently applying the basics year in and year out which brought the big results.

So as we head into the second week of the New Year and Two Oceans and Comrades training season gets into full swing, here are my top 10 Basics that will never let you down:

  1. Run far often, very regularly often, and never skip your LSD.
  2. Cross training does not count as running and does count as training.
  3. When in doubt, do hills.
  4. Alternate hard and easy days as well as hard and easy weeks to allow time for your body to recover.
  5. After a marathon or ultra, it can take 2 weeks to a month for your body to recover, if you give it a chance, otherwise even longer.
  6. Running in the rain does not make you sick, bugs do.
  7. Eat carbohydrates. Full stop.
  8. To loose weight, eat less food and drink less alcohol.
  9. The shoe that feels the best on a test run is the best shoe for you.
  10. Sleep is the best recovery tool, and it is free.

Good luck chasing your 2017 dreams, remember though to every now and then just stop a while and appreciate just being able to run.

Happy Running, Laughing and Living

Coach Kathleen

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