2017 has been a successful year for me as a runner and has shown me that even though I’ve been taking part in this sport for a good decade now, there is still plenty that I can learn. This year I have learned several valuable lessons, and so that I don’t forget them I am going to write them down.
Lesson 1: Speed Kills
This two-word phrase is thrown around so much in coaching and training literature that it has earned itself cliché status, but like all good clichés it conveys a large amount of truth. To be a good distance runner it is essential to possess good speed. I am not an athlete whose legs are packed with fast twitch fibres but that doesn’t mean I can’t improve my ability to run fast. Reflecting on my running goals this morning it occured to me that in order to get my steeplechase time down in the low 9 minute bracket, I need to be in 8:30 3k shape at worst. I am not going to achieve this by improving my endurance; that bit is sorted. I’ll need to be in 4 minute 1500 shape. Which means I’ll need to be in 2 minute 800 shape. Which means…
I have improved this year by doing more speed work on the track. Not so I can unleash a devastating kick on anyone who dares to be in the same postcode as me with 250 to go (nice though that would be) but so that I can handle faster paces over all distances.
Lesson 2: Strength and Conditioning is Vital
Distance running is a brutal sport. It pushes and punishes the body, creates wear and tear (more on tear later) and stress-tests the notion that our species was born to run. Measuring your weekly kilometres with 3 digits is not something normal human beings do. Nor for that matter is measuring your weekly volume at all, but I digress. To cope with such a large volume of training, runners’ bodies need to be robust and strong. This year I have really been trying to focus on strengthening my body at home and in the gym so that I have a strong core and muscles that are up to the task I assign them almost every day. In addition to this, gym work, hill sprints, weights, strides and plyometric exercises all contribute to your ability to run at higher speeds. See lesson 1.
In October I was unfortunate enough to tear my left calf whilst racing for my club. The time that elapsed between the injury and my next race was only five weeks, the time between the injury and my next run a mere two and a half. In part this was because I followed my physio’s advice to the letter and did not try and run too soon, but I also believe that lightly loading and stressing the muscle when it was ready, as well as focusing on all the other muscle groups in the body, was what allowed me to return so quickly and what stopped the injury from returning once I was back to a full training load.
Lesson 3: I can handle more training than I thought
Since moving clubs I have increased the density of hard sessions. I am not running bigger mileage than I was before, but a greater proportion of it is at pace. Some weeks I will do three hard sessions, usually on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Sometimes one of these is a dud and my legs succumb to the workload I am demanding of them and refuse to cooperate, but most of the time I can handle this amount of training. As long as I keep listening to my body and holding back when I need to, I will continue with this.
Lesson 4: 30 is just the start
This year I celebrated my 30th full orbit of the sun. Whilst common sense would dictate that the difference between 29 and 30 is minimal in terms of what your body can and cannot do, the presence of the digit ‘3’ makes you worry about physical decline. At least in a relative sense of course. I’m not talking about getting myself a stairlift and a zimmerframe here, just a worry that I won’t be able to match the times I ran in my twenties.
And then I broke my 1500 PB. And then my 5000. And then my steeplechase. Three times.
I know I can keep improving. 30 is just the start.
Lesson 5: I like Steeplechase
I never thought I’d say this but it’s true.
My name’s Ed and I’m a chaseaholic.