Saturday, February 25, 2012

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.........

there was a runner. He did OK on the local scene - won the odd place and team prize.

He had a bit of a reputation for going out hard from the gun - sometimes he was just plain silly, like when he went through 2 miles in the Great North Run in 9.30 mins, still in the leading group!!

This runner also did a bit of track racing and trained twice a week on the track with a 800m/1500m group. His track racing was based on strength rather than speed - he still ran long fell races, mountain marathons and LDWA events over 25 miles, as well as road racing and orienteering events - in fact, a bit of a jack-of-all-trades (and master of none!).

So when racing 800m or 1500m on the track, our runner had to go out hard from the start. This meant that a hard start in road races actually felt comfortable - 5 minute miling compared to 4.15 minute miling - at least early on! Then he would drift back through the field.

After a few years of racing like this, our runner gradually eased back from a fast start, trying to set a steady pace, run comfortably through to half way or three-quarters, before finishing strongly. His ultimate race with this strategy was in the London Marathon - a pb of 2.39 (and bits), and a 36 minute last 10km. Positively slicing through the field! Great feeling!

A few years further on, and a slow steady start became the order of the day, gradually working his way through the field as the race progressed, hopefully finishing up running with people moving at the same pace. Quite a satisfactory way to race, at least mentally, but not that great for results!

But even this race strategy is starting to fall apart - our runner is starting oh so slowly and not making a great deal of progress during the race. Our runner is no longer even making the top half of the field in local fell races!

The nadir must have been last week at the CompassSport Cup match at Gilling Woods. 4 controls in, about 25% round the course, and our runner has already lost 7.30 mins to his better clubmates - 21 mins to their 13.30. OK, he only lost another 5 mins in the remainder of the course, finishing in 72 mins to their 59.30, but the damage had been done early on.

The chap who used to coach those track training sessions all those years ago always said our runner was never the same after he stopped going off hard.

Is the problem physical, mental or just plain old age? Who knows? But then, it would be nice to knw. And surely it's not a unique story!?!

1 comment:

Paul T said...

A while ago I had long spell of fouling up first controls. I tried a few things but the basic idea was to get all the mistakes out of the way before the start kite. So physically I try to have a long gentle warm up because even when 'training' I do notice that it takes 20 mins or so to get going properly nowadays. Before that there are all manner of distracting niggles. Also, I try to take a fragment of map with me on the warmup and mentally navigate a few legs, get used to focussing, orientating, where N is etc etc. Perhaps it's all ritual and it's actually something else that makes the difference but I generally get to the start kite feeling in tune and ready to go. Didn't stop me choosing an awful route to #1 at Gilling though, but it's no more frequent than any other leg.

There's another idea which has helped me, one I remember reading in one of those CompassSport 'Class Leader' articles. I think it was from Mike Billinghurst but may be wrong. His insight was that at our age there are plenty of people who can run slowly forever. A few decades of relevant eventing leaves that legacy. And it also leaves another legacy of being able to navigate at the speed you used to able to run 20 years ago. His idea the M50/55 differentiator is a bit of speed and strength to be able to run faster in terrain. And therefore in our time-poor stage of life, that's the aspect to train.
Either way hope we can all still enjoy a well planned course on a goodmap on a sharp winters morning, like Gilling!