Monday, 4 August 2008

Funny thing endurance

At a weekend track meeting I got talking to two of my clubmates, both veterans (masters) and both the proud owners of big new personal bests. The first had just knocked 4 seconds off his 800m time to go sub 2:20, which is a big chunk by any standard. Especially as all of last season he had trained specifically for the 800m and this season he hadn't ! The second runner had a tough winter with not as much running as last year. The last time we spoke in June he was toying with the idea of running some shorter races than last season's range of 800m-5000m. This seemed like a good idea as he has plenty of speed. So when he popped a 59.9 for 400m (not bad for a 45 year old novice sprinter) the plan was vindicated.

Earlier that morning I had been reading in the newspapers Marilyn Okoro explaining her 1:58 front running win in the Crystal Palace GP the previous friday. Maz is a 800m runner with enough 400m speed to be on the GB 4x400m relay team. Her slow start to the season (she was running 2:02 back in May) was down to the heavy endurance work she was putting in she explained. In the same paper Michael Rimmer was chuffed with his 1:44 breakthrough which in his estimation had a lot to do with a winter spent training with the 1500m man (and accomplished cross country runner) Tom Lancashire under the guidance of experienced coach Norman Poole.

So this got me thinking, what have a couple of 45 year old club mates got in common with two of Britain's Olympic middle distance hopes ?

Well the first of my clubmates had actually run his first marathon this spring. As a result he had spent the winter running more volume and doing more long runs than before. So while he hadn't been hammering short reps on the track all spring he had been getting aerobically much fitter. And given that the 800m is about half and half aerobic and anaerobic contribution its pretty easy to work out now where the 4 second improvement came from !! In fact if he now does a few weeks of race pace workouts I would bet that there is another second or two to come off that time. And the second club mate was simply matching his race event to the amount of background training he had managed to get done in the winter. Instead of facing a summer of disappointment in the longer middle distances he moved down and focused on setting personal bests at those distances.

So what's the takeout ? The aerobic system has far more scope for training than the anaerobic and the majority of us are underdeveloped aerobically. (Even after a few years of marathon training I am still improving my running economy and turning in faster races even though my anaerobic power is less than it was 10 years ago). So whether you are a half miler or a marathon runner get to work developing your aerobic capabilities. It takes time and the payback is well worth it.

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