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

1 comment:

Adrian Marriott said...

To expand on my comment that "My rough and ready reckoner is 30,000 - 50,000 miles to get near your potential".

What is this based on ? Well without do a full scientific study that stands up to academic scrutiny i've looked at how much running a range of athletes have done and this is the sort of range that seems to be required to hit a peak in the longer endurance races. i.e. 10k to marathon. For shorter events the volume is less.

And of course there are always exceptions to the rule.

Its also worth mentioning that is to get to your full potential. Of course you can start to get good results way before you hit the peak. In fact there is defintely a question of diminishing returns. I haven't graphed this but at a guess the last 50% of training is required to get the last 1-2% of performance - or something like that. Of course at elite level thats the difference between making an Olympic semi and winning a medal which makes it worth the effort ...