As the new year dawns, I thought I’d share a few of the endurance running secrets I learned or was reminded of during 2015 – which turned out to be pretty successful for me. Aside from having a hip-locking half marathon in early March (oh, how I loathe half marathons) I’ve been lucky enough to finish on the podium in every race.
So here’s what I’ve picked up along the way:
1. It is possible to run outdoors all throughout Qatar’s hottest summer
on record. It may not be good for your health long term, but it’s possible, and you do survive, although it gets annoying washing your sweaty shoes after every run. I wore my heart rate monitor every time out, drinking to thirst, and consumed on average 1.2l of fluids every 10km…and my kidneys were still telling me I was severely dehydrated on finishing.
2. More miles are the recipe for endurance success. I have run more miles this year than any other. Do I think I should have run more miles in previous years? No! I would have got injured.
I still don’t run high mileage in comparison to many other runners but I am running at a weekly mileage which my own fitness and stamina, accrued over several years of running, now allows.
3. This year has reminded me that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all training plan. This links with 2. My annual running mileage of just over 5,000km would injure another runner but not sufficiently challenge someone else – it stands to reason then that there will never be a single training plan which fits everyone’s own needs.
We’re all unique and we’re all unique to that particular moment in time. I’ve done Al Andalus Ultimate Trail for the last three years. Each year, I’ve tweaked my training to improve performance. It could be argued I should just have followed this third year’s plan in the first year – well it wouldn’t have worked – since I would not have been sufficiently conditioned at that time to maintain the necessary intensity of training for the period involved.
Running is a progressive sport and I think we’d all do well to remember this. There’s nothing wrong with starting with 10km races, enjoying them for a couple of years, and spending five years developing and progressing before tackling that marathon. The marathon distance isn’t going anywhere. We live in a world of quick fixes and ‘do it now’ mentality…running and your body doesn’t work like that.
4. It’s okay to train easy. ‘Easy’ doesn’t mean that you’re not getting a training effect. ‘Easy’ at the right time and in the right amounts is still quality training. Where easy becomes less effective is when every run
is easy. Yup, confusing, I know. The human body is infinitely adaptable; if you don’t challenge yourself you’ll never progress but you do need to give your body chance to recover by turning over easy. Continual pounding just makes you exhausted in the same way that plodding along at the same pace on every run does nothing to encourage your body to adapt.
5. Running gears are invaluable in running. How many times to I hear “it hurts to run slow!”? Yes, it is uncomfortable when you first start out. But it also hurts to run fast all the time too.
Young horses find working with collection – ie with a shorter stride length and balance – very difficult. It’s purely because they do not yet have the muscle strength to enable them to do so. A runner is exactly the same.
Your pace is dictated by the range of motion of your hips and your ability to control the power delivered through your muscles and joints. Power is delivered as speed. Develop that power through quality endurance strength and conditioning, develop the range of motion of your hips, develop correct running form, and you’ll learn to control your speed. You’ll be able to lengthen and shorten your stride as your pace and the terrain dictates.