Speed Work – Week Beginning 14 May

This has been a tough week of training, largely due to the intensity rather than the volume undertaken. I know I lack basic speed and have really been trying to address this in my training recently, prioritising the sessions that require me to run close to my top speed.

I tend to find that the sessions I look forward to the most are usually those of least benefit to me. The converse is also true; the sessions I dread the most, for example Thursday’s 10 reps of 400m with long recoveries, tend to be exactly what I need. Give me a 10 mile tempo and I’ll be the cat who got the cream; give me short reps on the track with long recoveries and I will dread the session all day. This is not just a running phenomenon. People often favour activities that do not take them out of their comfort zones, even though those that do have value. I am starting to find, though, that the training I like the least generally isn’t as bad as it seems. Once I have got my head round the idea that I am going to be off the back and getting dropped, I relax and just get on with doing the work. And it tends to be over quickly!

I was particularly pleased with this session. Every rep was between 61 and 63 to the nearest second, whereas I completed exactly the same session last year with times in the 63 to 65 range. On Tuesday I will race over 1500m and have the opportunity to see whether the hard work is paying off yet or not.

My Week:

Monday: AM 10km easy / PM 11km easy (21)

Tuesday: AM 9km easy / PM track session – 4 sets of 800,400 off 100/200 jog, 4*200 – 2:17,2:16,2:18,2:17 66,67,67,68 30,30,30,28 (22)

Wednesday: 16km easy (16)

Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM track session 10*400 off 3:00 – 62,62,62,62,61,61,62,63,63,62 (24)

Friday: rest (0)

Saturday: grass session 1,2,3,2,1,2,3,2,1 minutes with half previous effort recovery (14)

Sunday: 14km easy (14)

First, Second and Last – Week Beginning 30 April

This week I finished first in a race and last in another but second across the line in both.

On Tuesday, fellow steeplechaser Jonny and I travelled to his home town of Kettering where his home club had agreed to put a ‘chase on for us. The third of our party, Matt, had pulled out at the last minute leaving just two of us on the start line. It was intended as an early season warm up race but there was nothing warm about it. By the time the gun went it was 9pm and a cool day had turned into a very cold one. The back straight was windy and the water in the pit was ice cold. Not steeplechase weather at all. We ended the race with respectable but unspectacular times; I was only 6 seconds outside my target for the race, suggesting I am in decent enough shape.

Sunday was the opposite, a 5000m run in intense heat. My club mate Omer, who is from Ethiopia, charged off at the front. Knowing that I would not handle the heat as well as him I let him go, imagining that he would come back to me at some point later in the race. He never did. Fortunately for me, though, the rest of the field suffered just as much as I did and I managed to hang on for second, and first ‘B’ runner, in a time of 15:29. It was an uncomfortable race and if I had known a week in advance what the weather would be like I would have asked to do a 1500 or a steeplechase instead.

Unfortunately, as I have learned this week, you can’t control the conditions, especially in this country. The one thing you can control is your training, however. If I keep up the hard work the good results will take care of themselves eventually.

My Week

Monday: 8km easy (8)

Tuesday: AM 8km easy / PM Kettering Open 2000m steeplechase, 2nd in 6:16.28 (16)

Wednesday: 16km easy (16)

Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM track session 8*200 off 200 jog (21)

Friday: 10km easy (10)

Saturday: rest (0)

Sunday: AM 8km easy / PM Midland League 5000m, 2nd and 1st B runner in 15:29.1 (18)

Steeplechase – Week Beginning 23 April

I’m knackered.

This week, after a couple of weeks of low intensity running due to some calf trouble, I went all in on my return to the track. On Wednesday we did 4 reps of 1km over barriers in spikes. This session was noteworthy for two reasons. The first was the remarkable fact that three people who collectively possess degrees in Mathematics, Economics and Biomedical Science can’t agree on where the start line should be for 1000 metres in lane 6. 100 metres further ahead is the answer, by the way. The second is that steeplechase sessions hurt. You can do all the drills and clearances you like over the winter, but nothing truly prepares you for the feeling of running hard over barriers. Although it got easier as the session progressed, the pain in both my lungs and calves was unexpectedly intense.

One thing that a winter of weekly hurdle drills has prepared me for, though, is being able to hurdle off both legs. Eight months ago, the idea that I would be able to clear a steeplechase barrier with my left leg leading seemed fanciful and ludicrous. Now, after gradually increasing the height of the clearances and forcing myself to do more reps on my weak leg than my strong one, I can hurdle off either leg. The benefit of this is that any foot readjustment on the approach to a barrier is minimal, and thus less time is lost at each of them. It also means that the muscular load of both taking off and landing is spread evenly across both sides of the body.

On Saturday we did a deceptively hard session. A distance runner’s response to hearing that the session is 12 reps of 100 metres is “is that all?” but I was well and truly broken afterwards. Each effort was a series of 6 hurdles, bringing the days’s total to 72 and the week’s total to 116, not including warm up clearances or water jump practice.

I hope it pays off.

My Week

Monday: AM 8km easy / PM 12km easy (20)

Tuesday: AM 8km easy / PM 16km easy (24)

Wednesday: 4*1000 over barriers with 300m jog recovery in 3:00-3:04, 2*400 in 67,64 (12)

Thursday: 15km easy (15)

Friday: AM 12km easy / PM 10km easy (22)

Saturday: barrier session – 12*100m with 6 hurdles off 20s, strides (9)

Sunday: rest (0)

Heat, Dan, and Mary Keitany – Week Beginning 16 April

Yesterday reminded me why I don’t run marathons.

After my morning run I settled down in front of the TV to watch the coverage of the London Marathon. Taking place on a unseasonably warm day, it provided plenty of entertainment. If you are a massive sadist who likes to watch people suffer, that is. Fortunately I am so had a great time.

Neither the men nor the women set off at a pace appropriate for the conditions and as a result there were some ugly scenes towards the end as titans of the sport crawled home like the charity runners several miles back down the road. Watching Mary Keitany, normally such a graceful and elegant runner, shuffle the last mile, cooked from having gone out inside world record pace on a hot day, was excruciating.

The men’s race was no different, and in the opening miles the men resembled a group of 9 year old boys throwing rocks at each other to see who would get hit by the fewest. Mo Farah managed to dodge several of them but still grimaced his way to a 4 minute positive split.

It wasn’t just the elites. My friend Dan, in a message afterwards, said “I can remember nothing from the last 12km and woke up under a pile of ice in the medical tent.” Sounds like fun.

I’m sure running a good marathon is a hugely satisfying experience but it seems to go wrong more often than it goes right. This must be hard to take in an event you only get a couple of chances at every year and that requires several months of dedicated training. I’m sticking with steeplechase.

My Week

Monday: AM 8km easy / PM 12km easy (20)

Tuesday: 16km easy (16)

Wednesday: 16km easy (16)

Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM 13km moderate, weights (23)

Friday: 15km easy (15)

Saturday: rest (0)

Sunday: AM 17km easy / PM 8km easy (25)

Better Safe than Sorry – Week Beginning 09 April

I love the National 12 Stage. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is one of my favourite events of the running year. I enjoy the drama of the race and the story lines that evolve over the course of four hours of racing. I enjoy taking over from a team mate and charging down the incline from the start line that takes runners to the start of the famed Sutton Park hill. I enjoy trying desperately to hang on to anyone who passes me and I love the feeling of chasing other athletes down and passing them. In a strange way, I enjoy the agony of turning the corner before the finish and sprinting uphill past the crowds of spectators, trying to get every last second out of my race-worn legs.

I had been looking forward to this year’s edition for weeks. It took place this weekend on a sun-drenched day in Sutton Park and was every bit as exciting as it has been in previous years. But I wasn’t taking part.

Unfortunately I started feeling tightness in my left calf on Wednesday morning after a heavy track session the night before. It was no better on Thursday when I tried to run a couple of fast miles in Cannon Hill Park; I couldn’t get the full range of motion out of it and it felt like it was going to get damaged if I ran any faster. Just like it did before I tore it in October. At the National Road Relays.

After spending several hours wrestling with the part of my brain that was telling me it was just ghost pain that would disappear with a good old fashioned bit of hard road running, I decided to call Dave, my coach and team manager, to tell him I wouldn’t be able to run. Better safe than sorry.

With an unexpected Saturday afternoon ahead of me and ’12 Stage’ now removed from my calendar, what was I going to do with this free time? Put a camera in my bag and go and watch, of course…

My Week

Monday: 14km easy (14)

Tuesday: AM 10km easy / PM hurdle drills, track session 1000,10*200,1000 off 200 jog – 2:52,31,31,30,30,30,30,31,30,30,30,2:53 (25)

Wednesday: AM 9km easy / PM 11km easy (20)

Thursday: 10km with 2 miles tempo (10)

Friday: rest (0)

Saturday: rest (0)

Sunday: AM 8km easy / PM 8km easy (16)