‘Right then, I think you need to get on the track tonight. Can you get on a track or is it still snowing’
‘I think I can get on a track’
‘Ok good, well here’s what you’re doing. Are you listening?’
Conversations with my coach – those related directly to training at least – don’t tend to last much more than a minute. Less talking about running and more running. Ironically I expect he’d probably see this blog as part of the problem…
So, to the training. For the first week of March, our diaries look pretty similar. Seventy six miles each. The major difference is one that I can’t do a great deal about – I didn’t do any running with Barry Smith and Charlie Spedding. I expect I could probably keep up with them now, but in 1981 being able to do a few runs a week with established international athletes must have been quite handy. Running is an individual sport, but training in a strong group clearly has a huge impact on performance. Groups of likeminded people have led to athletic success from the Midlands in the ‘60s to Gateshead in the ‘80s and Iten today. A group of us try to co-ordinate training when we can in Edinburgh, but getting a group of a decent standard together is difficult when we all run for different clubs, are coached by different people and have different aims. For a golden period of about six weeks in the winter we managed to get a group of more than five together every Tuesday, but injuries and different priorities (we had a 3.42 1,500m runner and a 65 minute half marathon runner training together in the winter, but coming into Spring it makes less sense for people to do the same training) have meant that it’s harder to maintain a group training environment. There just isn’t the strength in depth now to have groups training for different events at a good level.
As for competition at local road races, it is even harder to find a race that has the kind of strength in depth you saw twenty or thirty years ago. Off the back of my first post I was sent a sheet of results from 1991 for a midweek 10km in Sunderland where 11 people ran under 30.51. When I ran 31.09 at the Jedburgh 10km last year I won by two and a half minutes. In the two five mile races I’ve run in the last two weekends I finished second in both in 24.47 and 24.55, in races where a total of only seven people broke 26 minutes. It seems fairly obvious that if you’re getting beaten by ten people you’re likely to work harder than if you’re getting beaten by one.
The advantage of having my coach’s diaries is that I can put things into a kind of historical perspective – I can try to compete with him instead of with the other people training in the Meadows in Edinburgh. Recently he’s had me doing a few days where I run a hard, measured four mile run in the morning and then the same route again in the evening. Apart from being a bitch psychologically, this means I can compare myself with him. Last time I did it I ran 20.16 and 20.38, but he consistently ran under 20 minutes for both runs. If I didn’t have his times to compare mine to, I’d probably have been reasonably pleased with that day’s training – it’s not very often, after all, that you do two hard runs in one day (or that it’s considered a good idea!) As it stands, though, I just want to beat his times. Knowing that the bloke down the road could do it makes it attainable.
So here’s last week’s training for those who are interested in the details. I imagine there’ll be a few more of those since my article went on letsrun.com (one of my ambitions, at least, is complete!)
Sunday 3rd: 15 miles steady (1 hour 38).
Monday 4th: 11 miles steady.
Tuesday 5th: AM 5 miles steady PM 2 mile warm up, 3 x 2 miles in 10 minutes with 5 minutes jog recovery, 1 mile warm down.
Wednesday 6th: AM 5 miles steady PM 5 miles steady.
Thursday 7th: AM 5 miles steady PM 2 miles steady, 10 mins of 100m hard every 30 seconds, 2 miles steady.
Friday 8th: AM 5 miles easy
Saturday 9th: 10 miles including 2nd in King’s Buildings 5 mile road race in 24.55.