Wednesday, 28 January 2009

London and East Regions Endurance Day

On sunday the London and East Regions of England Athletics joined forces to put on an Endurance Day at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre. In anticipation of needing a relaxing day after the previous day's southern cross country championships I had been lined up to join Paul Evans and Eamon Martin for a lunchtime Q&A. While Eammon was unfortunately unable to attend Paul was able to share some of his experiences with the audience of over 80 and I chipped in with some of my experiences from a slightly different perspective. Last year Paul was our Team Manager at Toronto and still most of the stories were new ! A few things struck me about what he said.

When he started running in the late 80s his coach John Bicourt told Paul that it takes 10 years to make a runner. The abbreviated version of Paul's answer was that we dont have that long. So John put him on 3 times a day training to take some short cuts and get things moving. Apart from the inevitable injury that followed it was a good reminder that endurance is a long process of accumulation. My rough and ready reckoner is 30,000 - 50,000 miles to get near your potential. So John's 10 years is about right assuming an everage of 80 miles per week. I wonder how many runners take this sort of perspective and have a plan to get the work done over the course of a running career ?

Paul also talked about his breakthrough at the Great Race in 1990. A Tour de France style stage race where after holding back in the first week he was able to win a stage at the end of it and realise that actually he could compete with the top guys he was racing against. This moment of truth acted as a really powerful motivator for him and shortly after he was able to go full time as a runner knowing that he could be successful.

This point about not really knowing your potential until it hits you between the eyes is something I see time and again in my work as well as in sport. For me the time I spent in the Rift Valley in 2003 really opened my eyes to the level that I was truly capable of training at, rather than the level which my inner voice/other people told me I could manage. One of the most difficult things can be having the courage to put yourself into a situation where you have to raise your game to survive. The rewards are well worth the risks though !

We also talked about how 10,000m running and the marathon relate to each other. While we didn't have time to get into the technical details of training (something for next time ?) we both noted that we had run our 10,000m track personal bests after starting racing marathons. This is by no means unusual. Paula Radcliffe ran 10,000m and 5000m PBs after moving up and Richard Nerurkar ran his 10k best 8 weeks after his debut marathon. What we both agreed on was that when you have trained for and raced a marathon you are very fit - just tired. So a good rest, we both had 3 weeks followed by a sensible return to training allows you to use that strong aerobic base to build some faster training on top. This idea of training for and racing shorter distances, on a range of surfaces, between marathons enabled us to keep our speed intact and make marathon pace feel comfortable (a lesson I forgot in the run up to Geneva).

Photos by Andrew Dunn photography

Saturday, 3 January 2009

2009 hopes and marathon predictions

Running over the christmas holiday period didn't exactly go according to plan with a small problem in my left hip bringing me to a standstill for a few days. It was quite literally a pain in the arse and meant that I had to miss out on the Nos Galan 5k race on New Year's Eve. Although I'm now easy running again, this weekend's South West Cross Championships is also out the question so I will wrapped up warm taking photos and cheering on my Wells City Harrier team mates as they chase some more silverware.

The link in the Book secition to the Canova/Arcelli book from the IAAF was no longer working and has now been fixed thanks to a sharp eyed reader.

2009 promises to be an exciting year for marathoning. With Haile ruling the roost and Sammy Wanjiru proving in Beijing that he can win the hard way the scene is set for the world record to get pushed into new territory. Add in a growing group of east africans who have worked out how to prepare properly for 42km and we could see a 2:02 before the end of year with the right race and conditions. Though like many athletics fan what I would really like to see is a Haile v Wanjiru match up. Somehow I don't think it will happen in '09.

The big unknown for the women is what level Paula can return to. I've got a feeling she could be sub 2:20 again but no longer so dominant that she can run away from fields from the gun. So who will be brave enough to go with her and put her under real pressure in the last 10km ? London should be a fascinating race.

Domestically the women look stronger than the men with Mara Yamauchi also having emerged to world class in 2008 with her win in Osaka in January backed up with 6th in Beijing and 3rd in Tokyo at the end of the year. Expect a big PB revision this year.

All eyes will be on London to see if any of the british men can take the step from 2:18 to sub 2:15 and beyond. Their (our) cause is hardly helped by the selection policy of UK Athletics which persists in declining to send to a team to the IAAF World Marathon Team race. Other countries such as Canada have seen the light and are taking a more incremental approach and will send a team to Berlin as long as 4 guys have the IAAF standard. They have a really simple, long term approach which is articulated in a short document on their website. Not surprisingly Canadian marathon standards are on the rise already after 1 year of this strategy. Ian Stewart take note. Dan Robinson will be looking to take a big chunk off his 2:13 PB and an interesting debut could be Andrew Lemoncello who just looks like a marathoner in the making.

My plans will revolve around 2 marathons this year and key to making progress will be to carry improved 10k speed through the marathon build up phase. I'm really looking forward to it along with another training camp or two in the mountains (photo). Before that though there are some cross country races to be negotiated with the highlight being the Saucony English National at Parliament Hill. Bring it on !