Last week I included a few statistics which illustrate the extent to which standards have dropped, but sometimes numbers can be hard to relate to. So here’s an example of what a local road race used to look like:
This is the kind of race where you could run under thirty minutes for 10km and be nowhere. It is, as Hunter S. Thompson would have put it, a race run by men who would rather be shot out of a cannon than squeezed out of a tube. Races don’t tend to look much like this any more – try going down to your local park run if you want to see an extreme example. You just don’t get vests like the one Bernie Ford is wearing today either.
Tim Hutchings, who is in a far better position than I to comment, wrote an article in Athletics Weekly last week in which he lamented the fact that many of today’s better runners are under-raced compared with the runners in the ‘80s. I think this is partly down to a fear of being found out. A lot of people tend to only race when they’re in really good form now, rather than using races as a way of finding form. Charlie Spedding writes about not being scared to race in his book ‘From Last to First’, much of which is concerned with the mental approach to running. Rather than attempting to avoid racing people who are better than you, or being scared to compete, he advocates seeing racing better runners as an opportunity rather than something to be feared.
Sometimes you have to be a bit smart about this, though, as I found out last week. Running a 10km in an extremely windy Grangemouth, it’s probably best not to try to run away from people on a stretch into the wind, no matter how much you’re trying to change the way you approach racing. I found this out last weekend, and was beaten by two of a front group of four as a result. I gave it a decent go, and both of them should have beaten me on paper (one was second in the Scottish Cross Country this year and the other has the Commonwealth Games standard for the marathon already), but I would probably have given them a better race had I been more sensible.
Training can never really quite replicate races if you’re trying to really put out a hard effort. Running is a pretty simple sport – along with boxing it corresponds most closely to the basic ‘fight or flight’ response (some have tried to combine the two, but it is not recommended http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBxlTpkvQuk). I ran the Scottish six stage road relays yesterday, and after the first leg, when teams start to get spread out, runners are left constantly in the position of both hunter and hunted. You can’t replicate the adrenal reaction to this in training. I spent the first half of my leg chasing down the second placed runner and the second half worrying if there was anyone else chasing from behind. Given that the race was in Livingston, a new build town of underpasses, flyover bridges and tight corners between housing estates, you were never entirely certain that you weren’t about to be overtaken. My club, Costorphine, claimed the silver medal, the first time we’ve won a medal in this race, so it was a good day.
For those interested, below is the last week in March for both me and my coach, including the previous Sunday. We both raced twice, once in a relay.
Sunday: 11 miles including 3rd in Grangemouth 10km (31.03).
Monday: AM 5.5 miles steady PM 5.5 miles steady.
Tuesday: AM 4.5 miles steady PM 9.5 miles including 3km (2 laps jog), 5 x 1km (200 jog) on track with Matt Gunby. Hard work after Sunday.
Wednesday: AM 10 miles steady.
Thursday: AM 4.5 miles steady. PM 7 miles fartlek.
Friday: AM 4.5 miles steady. PM 4.5 miles steady.
Saturday: 4.5 miles easy.
Sunday: 11 miles including long leg in Scottish Road relay championships (29.29, started 3rd, finished 2nd).
Total for week up to Sunday: 72 miles.
My coach’s training:
Sunday: 14 miles inc (illegible) in Kendall Road Race – poor, 50.45
Monday: 6 miles with Barry
Tuesday: AM: 5 miles alone – tired. PM 4 miles 21.30 alone.
Wednesday: 10 miles – good.
Thursday: 10 miles.
Friday: AM 6 miles. PM 7 miles.
Saturday: 16 miles including leg at Gosforth Relays 15.24.
Sunday: AM 16 miles alone, tired. PM 4 miles OK.
Total for week up to Sunday: 78 miles.