Sunday, 27 December 2009

Comment: UKA Qualifying standards for 2010 European Championships

The marathon runners have known for a while what we have to do to qualify for Barcelona next year - well sort of anyway. The standard will be 2.18 for the men and 2.38 for the women though how many runners will actually get selected is anybody's guess - the policy becomes artfully vague at that point stating "UKA are able to select up to six men and six women ... the first three eligible UK athletes in the Virgin London Marathon... will be selected". My bet would be that this means teams of 3.

With a similar standard being used by England for Commonwealth Games qualification and Scotland and Wales using 2.19 there are plenty to opportunities in 2010 for the marathoners to aim for.

The qualifying standards for the track were published before xmas and remained broadly the same as for the 2009 Worlds. This produced howls of protest from the endurance folks. 13:20 and 27:47 are stiff targets for the 5000m and 10,000m. Indeed if that standard was applied across Europe you would have about enough qualified athletes for half a final !

So what is going on here ? I don't normally write about 'politics, selection and governing bodies' but I'm going to make an exception in this case because actually there could be a serious 'training' point hidden in all of this.

It occured to me that perhaps the folks who are in charge of endurance at UKA have come up with a stunningly cunning plan that goes something like this:

  1. Set the qualifying standards for the track so high that they become unrealistic for most of our current endurance athletes unless they are already world class i.e. Mo.
  2. Make the marathon standards appealing (2.18 should be a lot easier than 27.47).
  3. Athletes (including the younger enduros) forgo the track and train like hell for the marathon over winter 2009/10.
  4. In London we get more guys sub 2.18 but the real benefit comes later ...
  5. Folks have raised their training volume, improved their endurance and start smashing their track PBs in summer 2010 (there are planty of precedents for athletes moving up to the marathon then improving on the track later).
  6. Realising the impact of high winter mileage, long runs and long tempos they repeat in 2011 and track times continue to tumble ...
Well it sounds great and its certainly cunning, lets see what happens !

The magic of group training

One of the great things about the holidays down here in the west is that people 'come home' for christmas which means a good sized training group and competitive local races. Its a complete contrast to when I lived in London when a mass exodus made training a pretty lonely experience at times.

So last tuesday we were on the track for the first time in a while (too icy and dangerous on the grass). During the winter we would normally do about one week in four on the track, the rest of the time we use a variety of grass circuits for our tuesday club workouts at Wells. This helps us avoid clock watching and trying to race the sessions which is always a danger on the track.

And we had a great evening. There were 8 of us running between 12 and 20 reps of 400m with just a 100m 'float' recovery. Its ages since i've run in a group that size on the track - I probably have to go back as far as a BMC 5000m race at Solihull in summer 2007 for the last time. The beauty of the group is several. Its warmer for a start on freezing winter night ! But seriously, getting to share the pacemaking duties means that you only have to lead a few reps when you can be totally focused on the pace. For the other reps you can sit in and concentrate on keeping relaxed - and the key to racing really fast is to be able to run relaxed at speed. And you also get the experience of running in close proximity to other runners, a skill which seems to be sadly lacking in many races these days.

Of course many runners want to do their own session and hate the thought of compromise to fit in with others and the reality is that at this time of year being flexible with your workout isn't really a compromise at all. The benefits far outweigh any perceived loss. For me on tuesday it was simply a case of running an extra four reps when the main group was done. You have got recovery, rep length and number of reps to play around with if you keep the speed the same as the rest of your group - thats plenty of scope for creativity !

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Gwent League return

After a couple months of not knowing if I would stand on the start line again I managed a muddy 10km round Hestercombe Gardens in the Gwent League last weekend. Nothing spectacular, just a brisk start and 3 steady laps on the undulating course before picking it up in the last mile to come home 4th overall and 2nd in the Somerset Championships behind Wells team mate Ben Tickner who is flying at the moment.

In fact the club as a whole had a great day with wins in a number of age categories including Oliver Fox and Laura Parker dominating the u13 boys and u20 women respectively and the men winning the Gwent League combined for the first time I think ?

Hopefully this marks the start of a solid block of training to get me in shape for the bigger XC races after xmas and then enable me to prepare properly for the London Marathon in April. Clearly time is running already and ideally I would like to be in much better 10k shape than i'm in at the moment. But you start where you start and at least in my favour I have years of aerobic training which gives me a good base to build from. Its going to be a fun 20 weeks ...