February 2017

Another week of running, what else is there ?

After the weekend racing I certainly felt every year of my fifty on this planet. Monday and Tuesday were spent trying very hard to keep up with my training buddies and I was dropped on a few occasions even on our ‘easy to Matilda Bay and back‘ lunchtime 10k. The race itself was brutal and I needed the full 48 hours after a 10k to recover. Things improved Wednesday and come Thursday I was ready for another 14k progressive with the lads with the obligatory  post run muffin and coffee at Yelo. Surprisingly the 14k progressive went better than planned and I managed to pull a PB out of the hat which was a pleasant surprise, albeit I worked for it. Of course with Strava I was able to investigate my previous runs and even print out the history of the run.  In the image below you can see the gradual increase in average pace, bar one (9th February) where we decided to make a big effort to run a perfect progressive and this start slower to give us some leeway at the pointy end of the session. (I actually missed a perfect progressive by a few seconds on one of the last kilometres if I remember correctly? Still to hit a perfect 14k progressive.)

14k Progressive run , with a muffin incentive.


These sorts of graphics give you the little push you can sometimes need as you start another week of training. Marathon training is hard work and also hard work on a weekly basis, it doesn’t just end after a few weeks. Every Sunday you struggle to hit the weekly target and then Monday is all starts again and you’re back behind the eight ball.  Add in progressively hard sessions and towards the end of a marathon training session you can feel absolutely finished. Luckily you have a few weeks tapering and then 3 days carbo-loading before the big event. These two activities certainly help at the end of a marathon plan.

So back to indicator sessions and races. I can see from my progressive run finish times over the last few months I am making an improvement. This sort of information helps spur you on as you move towards your ultimate goal. A glimmer of light in the dark tunnel of marathon training. I mentioned in a earlier post marathon training ‘is a slog‘, natural talent plays a part but good old fashioned hard work can make as much of a difference, this allows runners like myself, who are prepared to put in an extra few kilometres, gain an advantage or at least level the playing field.

As I have mentioned many times, and it’s even one of my golden rules, you need to document everything and Strava (http://www.strava.com ) or even Training Peaks , ( https://www.trainingpeaks.com ) these need to be your weapons of choice. As you move along your marathon plan you see improvement in the pace and/or distance of sessions, this gives you the push you need to get to Sunday, add up your kilometres (or look at Strava as the days of adding up left us when Bill Gates invented Excel of course. Thanks Bill.) and then start thinking about Monday morning and starting at zero again. Constantly look for improvements as you work towards the marathon, these will also give you the mental strength you will need in the race, ‘trust in your training’ is one of my favourite running mantras and these small victories help to reinforce this.  Keep looking for these improvements , they do make a difference.

Right, Sunday almost finished, another 10k maybe and then it’s time to reset my weekly totals back to zero and back behind the eight ball I scuttle ready for another week of running, wouldn’t have it any other way really, I mean,  what else is there ?

How can a race so short teach you so much ?

This morning I lined up for the West Australian Marathon Club ( http://www.wamc.org.au ) Point Walter 16k (10Miles), my first race as a fifty year old. I’d ran this race twice in the last three years and managed a second place finish both times (58:24 and 59:59:07 , that 07 is important as the club (and Strava) rounded it up to an hour dead !, the first time was a PB and is important for later in this post…) I had a mini taper for this one as I was determined to go faster than the 59:59:07 I ran last year and the Race Director and Club President both knew I was out to set the record straight.

So to the start, I turned up and saw my friend and training partner Ross warming up in the car park and this threw me a bit as he had earlier commented he’d be running with the lads and Ross is on fire at the moment, winning his last two events. Mentally this was a blow as I was hoping to cruise to a podium, truth be told , and seeing Ross I knew I was probably now one place down. Speaking to Ross at the start and it seemed another ‘gun runner’ was doing the 16k (there is a 5k option as well) so I moved myself one more place down the finishing list. I was now, probably best case, gunning for 3rd.  Next thing alongside me my friend Zac turns up after running a 1hr15mins half the previous week (a 5 minute PB, oh to be young again!) , so much for a cruise to a podium, although I knew Zac would probably fade he has the benefit of youth, something I can no longer draw on. This was not a good start to the race and add in a hot day , it started at around 25c and rose quickly, together with a headwind for the first 4k (it is an 8k loop twice); I was mentally finished before I even started.

Once we started I found Ross and sat behind him, cocooned between the 5k runners who went off like scolded cats and a group of 16k runners who would challenge for the podium places. At the 2.5k point the 5k runners turned and the 16k race unfolded before me. The gun runner Ross spoke off was well ahead and barring injury a shoe in for the win. Ross was comfortable in 2nd and I was just behind him with young Zac hot on my heels.

I found the initial pace taxing into the wind and came up with all sorts of reasons why I could pull the pin and end the pain, which was unusual for me. Maybe this ‘tapering lark’ is not all it’s cracked up to be, either way by 4k I was in trouble. Zac went past me about this time and moved away with Ross and with him all thoughts of a medal. This added to my anguish and did nothing for my mental state which was now at its lowest. I had spent all week reading Matt Fitzgerald’s ‘How bad do you want it’, and realised about the 5k mark I didn’t want it at all ! This was the compounded by another runner cruising past me , so I had now moved to 5th and was seriously thinking of pulling out at the 8k mark.  I have raced hundreds of races in my time and never DNF’d so the thought of doing so on a 16k WAMC race was never going to happen but option ‘B’ was to start a long 8k cool down, and work out valid reasons for this approach; truth be told I could think of none. (Funnily enough I was on Facebook yesterday, as I was tapering, and replied to a comment about taking days off as a sign of weakness, here I was thinking of pulling the pin on a 16k race; karma I think! )

Right, halfway in around 28:30; on track for my sub one hour target but on the inside well and truly finished. The Race Director and Club President cheered me on and informed me I was right on time but I remember thinking they were dreaming if they thought I’d be back within the hour, never going to happen. Reluctantly  I moved onto the second lap and knuckled down to endure what I thought would be more of the same. The 4k headwind embraced me and my pace started to drop above the 3:3xmin/k I had targeted, only just,  but enough.

Well at 9k it happened, the whole race changed in an instant. The lead ‘gun runner’, who was well ahead, was on the side of the path and obviously out of the race. Suddenly I was in 4th place and looking up ahead young Zac was now paying the price for racing the half the week before and I was catching him. Boom ! Suddenly the voice inside my head which was shouting for mercy was now shouting for medals and it was on like donkey kong for young and old !!

The headwind didn’t help me but Zac was paying the price big time and I know from past races he is not the best finisher. (He’s young and starts every race at suicide pace, it won’t be long before he finishes the race as the same pace and then he’ll be out of my league; if not already. ) Put these two things together and I knew I was with a good chance of a podium. At fifty my days of getting on, or even near, to a podium are limited and I was quite prepared to put it on the line for the last 6k to grab one more before my time is done. In about 4 minutes I had gone from pulling the pin for the first time in my career to putting my head down, finding a second wind , and rolling in the runner in front of me. This I did at the last turn around with 4k to go. With the wind behind me I was able to maintain the sub 3:40min/k average pace and even managed to get within less than 20 seconds to Ross, who at one point was just about out of sight. How did I do this ? When the lead runner pulled out and I could see Zac struggling my whole mental approach changed, and when I convinced the mind I could grab a medal the limiters were taken off and I was allowed to run quicker, with fatigue ejected to the back of my mind.

Although this was only a 16k race I had been through the ringer when it came to emotions. I was finished at 2k, pulling out at 4k, heading to a world of pain and 8k and reborn at 9k. This running really does teach you so much about yourself. If I had pulled the pin at any time during that race I would be typing such a different post, as it is I am happy that yet again I managed to pull it out of the fire and convince myself I could finish, and finish strong.

Was the book helpful, (ref: Matt Fitzgerald)? To tell you the truth probably not, it’s easy to sit on a train on the way to work reading about all the great athletes who have dug deep when faced with impossible odds and how the mind has helped them achieve their goals. When you’re in a massive hole at the start of the race you know it’s the mind telling you to stop but ignoring it, or even convincing the mind it is wrong, it not so easy. I suppose the real answer is to trust in you training, if you’ve put in the hard yards you will come good, you may not get the PB you were chasing but you will finish; never ever stop.

Overall I managed to grab that podium and even managed a 1 second PB finishing in 58mins 22seconds, a second quicker than my 2013 time but a world apart for race experiences. Three years ago I was in the form of my life and this was another PB in a long line of PB’s, those days disappeared for a few years but I have been lucky enough now to sneak a few more. Today I had to work so hard for that 1 second PB but I’ll take it and really it is worth so much more because of the mental torture I put myself through to get it. I’ve asked this question before about how many times I can keep going to the well and pulling these runs out , eventually the well will be dry , eventually ? Until then it looks like running easy PB’s is never going to happen (not that they really ever did?) for me in the future, at fifty if you want a PB you are going to have to REALLY WANT a PB. No worries, today I have the medal which whenever I look at it I will remember the pain and the pleasure I put myself through to get it. That piece of metal is worth so much more to me, to me it is memories of another run where I asked myself some serious questions and , this time, came up with all the right answers.

I really earned this bad boy of a medal and time with the Club President, Davo’


Want to run faster, toughen up !

I’m a big fan of mental toughness and believe it is overlooked by so many runners.  To this end I have been reading Matt Fitzgerald’s book ‘How Bad Do You Want It’. As with all Matt’s writing it is insightful, thought provoking and just a damn good reason to spend time reading a good book. I highly recommend all runners read this book and also the holy grail of our running group ‘80/20 running’.  The ‘80/20′ Running will make you a better runner , to a point, while the ‘How bad do you want it‘ will let you notch up your effort and performance to a new level. This means new PB’s and PR’s all round. These books really are that good. Have a look around his website, http://mattfitzgerald.org/ , it is a treasure trove of all things running.

In Matt we trust…

Without giving up the plot of the book Matt states that all runners can run faster for longer and it is not the mind that dictates pace but the mind. This also backs up the work by Tim Noakes who was the first to talk about the ‘Central Governor’.  I have attached a link to a Runners Connect article on the Central Governor, worth a read. https://runnersconnect.net/running-training-articles/central-governor-theory/ Tim, like Matt, puts down the limiting factor to the mind not the body.

Of course don’t stop training and just hang around eating junk food before turning up to a race and ‘thinking happy thoughts’, unfortunately that ain’t going to cut it. The mind is part of the overall package which includes training (the harder the better!) , a good training base (the longer the better) and weight (the lower the better) . I suppose the four things combined give you the tools to attack your race. Get all four right and you’ll PB (PR) for sure (assuming it is physically possible as other factors may effect your performance , like being 90 years old?) Runners , in my opinion, ignore the mind and the weight advantages. Most runners train hard if they can, over a good length of time, injury permitting. A lot of runner fall into the ‘I run a lot so can eat what I want‘ trap or even worse , ‘I run so I can eat what I like‘. Sorry people, not true. To really busy your best you need to watch what you eat and keep your weight down as much as possible. For most this is not something they can contemplate and that is fine but if you want to go faster, lose weight. It can be that simple if all other variables stay the same. Physics really I suppose.

Luckily I’m racing this weekend so will be able to put into practice what Matt has taught me from the first few chapters of his book. As I’m in the middle of a mini-taper (three days of just one run a day and it’s killing me!)  I have some spare time so hope to finish the book by the time I get to the start line Sunday morning. By then I should be unstoppable ? Of course this sort of post needs a Steve Prefontaine quote to finish.

The master of mind over matter.


I’ve attached a short synopsis of How Bad Do You Want It’ to wet your appetite below.


Master the psychology of mind over muscle!

The greatest athletic performances spring from the mind, not the body. Elite athletes have known this for decades and now science is learning why it’s true. In his fascinating new book How Bad Do You Want It?, coach Matt Fitzgerald examines more than a dozen pivotal races to discover the surprising ways elite athletes strengthen their mental toughness.

Fitzgerald puts you into the pulse-pounding action of more than a dozen epic races from running, cycling, triathlon, XTERRA, and rowing with thrilling race reports and revealing post-race interviews with the elites. Their own words reinforce what the research has found: strong mental fitness lets us approach our true physical limits, giving us an edge over physically stronger competitors. Each chapter explores the how and why of an elite athlete’s transformative moment, revealing powerful new psychobiological principles you can practice to flex your own mental fitness.

The new psychobiological model of endurance performance shows that the most important question in endurance sports is: how bad do you want it? Fitzgerald’s fascinating book will forever change how you answer this question and show you how to master the psychology of mind over muscle. These lessons will help you push back your limits and uncover your full potential.

How Bad Do You Want It? reveals new psychobiological findings including:

Mental toughness determines how close you can get to your physical limit.

Bracing yourself for a tough race or workout can boost performance by 15% or more.

Champions have learned how to give more of what they have.

The only way to improve performance is by altering how you perceive effort.

Choking under pressure is a form of self-consciousness.

Your attitude in daily life is the same one you bring to sports.

There’s no such thing as going as fast as you can―only going faster than before.

The fastest racecourse is the one with the loudest spectators.

Faith in your training is as important as the training itself.

Athletes featured in How Bad Do You Want It?: Sammy Wanjiru, Jenny Simpson, Greg LeMond, Siri Lindley, Willie Stewart, Cadel Evans, Nathan Cohen and Joe Sullivan, Paula Newby-Fraser, Ryan Vail, Thomas Voeckler, Ned Overend, Steve Prefontaine, and last of all John “The Penguin” Bingham

— Matt Fitzgerald

“”How Bad Do You Want It?” will make you see your world as an endurance athlete in a new way. Fitzgerald’s research will help you become your own sports psychologist.” – Joe Friel, leading endurance sports coach and author of the Training Bible series


“How Bad Do You Want It?” looks at epic moments in endurance sports to mine habits and tactics we can use to cultivate our own mental strength.

Top athletes can seem godlike in their abilities. But no matter how skilled they are, talent takes them only so far. The hardest races demand that a champion rely as much on the mind as on the body, using it to confront the fears that we all face: fear of failure, suffering, or change, to name a few.

In “How Bad Do You Want It?” renowned endurance sports journalist Matt Fitzgerald examines the “psychobiological” model of athletic performance, exploring how athletes are able to overcome physical limitations with mental might. In gripping accounts from triathlon, cycling, running, rowing, and swimming, Fitzgerald puts the reader inside breathtaking races, shedding new light on what science says about mental fortitude and how anyone can cultivate the mental strength to surmount challenges–in sport and in life.

Matt Fitzgerald is a journalist, coach, sports nutritionist, and author of more than 20 books, including the best-selling “Racing Weight.” “

Suicide pace may be the answer.

This weekend I’m racing the first ‘proper’ race of the year. By ‘proper’ I would say it is a good indicator race of what the season may hold. My two previous races this year have been a 5k, which I ran so I could move between the 45-50 and 50-55 age groups for the WAMC, and my first 100k ultra which was a one off and more about keeping me interested over the festive break.

On Sunday I’m racing the WAMC Point Walter 16k, a race I have ran 2nd twice in the last three years, and it is my current PR time for a 16k , set in 2014. Last year there was some conjecture with my finishing time when I ran 59:59:xx which the club rounded up to 1 hour. I was not happy ! The next three races in my calendar didn’t go to plan and although I ran close to my PR’s I felt I could have ran better. Luckily the Joondalup half a few months later kick started my season when I ran a sub 1hour 18minute half marathon time, which at the time I thought was beyond me. From this race I then went on to probably the best racing season of my career, at 49.

Expectations for Point Walter would be a quicker time then last year (minimum) and if I can get a sniff of a PR I’ll be very happy. A PR this weekend would give me some good feedback on my current training regime which at the moment is starting to take its toll. I have been running double days now since June last year and it will be good to start to build towards race preparation rather than distance. I certainly have a serious foundation at the moment if nothing else.

Last year I went out too quick chasing my friend Jon Higgens. Jon ran sub 57 minutes so it was a strategy fraught with danger and in the second half of the race I dropped some time due to the legs not responding to the request for more pace. Luckily I was comfortably in second place so managed to hang on for a podium finish. This year I will try and pace the race better but the old adage about teaching old dog’s new tricks perfectly sums up most runners. The moment the race starts it’s normally on for young and old and all race strategies are quickly forgotten as you chase a fellow competitor, no matter what pace or experience.

Funnily enough when I PR’d this course back in 2014 I was chasing my Steve ‘Twinkle Toes’ McKean who had conveniently forgot to tell me he was running the 5k, imagine my surprise at the initial pace and I remember thinking Steve was running well. The truth was revealed at 2.5k when Steve turned in second place for the 5k and I was let loose to continue , in the lead, for the 16k after starting at 5k pace. I actually managed to recover and run a PR so maybe this start fast and hang on strategy is the way to go. I had a similar story when I ran my first sub 35min 10k , I was running with the lead 5k runners and at the turn around just continued at that pace with one other runner. We basically flat-lined it to 5k and again I managed to hang on for my first sub 35min 10k. All thought of pacing went out the window when the gun went off and I knew I was running too quick but was determined to see how far I could go without blowing up. Luckily it was 10k and a good PR.

The moral of both of these stories is sometimes I feel you can pace yourself out of a PR. If you have a pacing strategy you will, at best, hit your goal but rarely beat it by a significant amount. The risk is of course you are in form to go faster but only realise in the latter stages of the race and by then your ability to do some serious damage to your PR time is minimal. Of course the flip side is also true where if you do go out way too quick and you’re not having a good day there is a world of pain awaiting you and no matter how short the race the ‘pain box’ is an uncomfortable place to be if you’re not expecting it. A classic quote below from Steve Profontaine sums it up nicely….

A Steve Prefontaine classic quote.

The best thing of course is to trust in you training and have a realistic time and pacing strategy prepared. Massive jumps in PR’s for me, at my stage of my running career and life in general, will be unrealistic expectations and just getting close to previous records will be a win; albeit I have a few PR’s that I might nudge this year if all goes well. New runners starting out capture PR’s every time they put on a bib and this can become addictive. Nothing beats running faster than you have ever run before and for me this is what racing is all about. Forget the runners around you, you are racing yourself and this is what makes running such an honest sport. It really is you against the clock and records set in previous races and the continual battle to get faster.

I will start a mini-taper for the race tomorrow when I will only run my morning progressive 14k giving myself the afternoon off. Friday will be a similar story with one run only. (How did two runs a day become the norm?) Saturday will be my third day off for the year, the other two days off no running was the day before the ADU 100K ultra and the day after. This taper should give me the best chance of a good time on rested (?) legs. Conditions will of course play a large part as this week has been particularly humid but as the race starts early this shouldn’t be a problem.

Racing week is a special time and normally I start thinking about the race early in the week. This one has been playing on my mind since Monday but this is a good thing as it means I am anxious, nervous and excited about the prospect. A runner needs to be on edge and only really relaxes when the gun goes off and experience takes over. Of course it is going to hurt like hell towards the end, it is a racing, but when you’re racing all you need to do is keep moving forward as fast as you can, the pressure really is off. The photo below shows the look of a runner who has really run out of fuel and is hanging on for the finish, it is to be noted on the inside I am smiling, I think?

Point Walter 2016, coming home out of fuel !


The Secret to Running a Faster Marathon, Slow Down.

Great article I’ve been sent a few times by my running friends so it must be good, if nothing else for the great photos.


On Wednesday, January 26, I ran 10 kilometers through a forest in Kaptagat, Kenya, with Eliud Kipchoge, a few of his friends, and some of the scientists from Nike’s Breaking2 project. It was 4 pm and still blazing hot. We were at 8,000 feet of altitude. The atmosphere was jovial. Philemon Rono, a relentlessly cheerful athlete known to his friends as askari kidogu—“Small Police”—cracked jokes at my expense for at least the first 20 minutes. To be sure, little could have been funnier than me, a very hot 6-foot-5 British man, sweating next to Rono, 5 feet 31/2 inches of pure runner.

All of a sudden, our curious-looking gang went quiet. Having lost a couple of hard-breathing scientists on the way out, casualties to the altitude, we turned around at halfway. For a brief period, with the sun muffled by an avenue of dense trees, nobody in the group said a thing. The pace gently increased from around 5 minutes per kilometer to a little north of 4:40 per kilometer. All you could hear was the hi-hat beat of sneakers on dust and the straining bellows of an outsized mzungu attempting to hang with the Olympic marathon champion.


Breaking2 shot by Cait Oppermann for WIRED

It was during this period that I reflected upon the happy fact that I was not dead. Kipchoge has run whole marathons almost twice as fast as we were moving at that moment. Why had he chosen not to crank up the pace? Why hadn’t he killed us? Kipchoge is polite to a fault. Was he simply humoring his guests? When we returned to his training camp, another possibility emerged. This was a recovery run, and Kipchoge really does take his recovery runs that slowly. The data the Nike science team analyzed from his GPS watch shows that the kind of run he had done with us was exactly the kind of run he would have done anyway.

The thought remained with me. The previous day, at a dusty athletics track, I’d watched Kipchoge and his training group run 12 repetitions of 1,200 meters at roughly world-record pace for the marathon. (Kipchoge later told me it was “an 80 percent session”—hard but not crazy.) The day after our jog in Kaptagat, I’d watch the same group scorch 40 kilometers—or 25 miles, nearly a whole marathon—in 2 hours, 17 minutes. That, too, was real work. But on the Wednesday in between two intense days, Kipchoge had ambled his way to 20 easy kilometers, jogging in the morning and evening. Meanwhile, at his camp—a simple plot next to fields with cows, containing two tin-roofed bungalows, with no running water and long-drop toilets—he and his friends had spent their non-running time performing chores, listening to the radio, sleeping, and drinking gallons of sweet, milky tea.

I knew Kipchoge was fast. I didn’t understand how slow he could be. This, I thought, might be a moment to learn something.

Breaking2 shot by Cait Oppermann for WIRED

Stress vs. Rest

A few weeks earlier, I had been training at Paddington Recreation Ground, in London, just starting on a set of mile repetitions, when I felt a little pop in my left calf. I ground to a halt. The injury was frustrating, to say the least. I’d been training hard and had been making progress. My times were coming down, my fitness was improving, I felt light. And now—out of nowhere—a setback.

But then I thought: Cowboy up. The leg didn’t feel so bad. I rested for a couple of days, then tried out the calf on a short jog. After two days of decent training—a glorious “progression run,” each kilometer faster than the last, with my friend Pete the Trumpet, plus a great track session—I felt that little pop again and once more stopped dead. I was about 3 miles from home, with no money in my pocket. It was freezing cold. The walk back seemed to take forever.

The Nike team begged me to rest properly. I saw a physiotherapist named Matt Fox, who has worked at Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers football clubs and has seen more than his share of injured calf muscles. He thought the strain was most likely a grade 1 tear of my soleus. He also counseled inactivity. “You can either rest properly now, or you can turn a one-week injury into a six-week injury,” he said. Foxes are smart, I knew.

During my eight days off, I rethought other aspects of my training. Perhaps I’d injured myself because I was working too hard. In addition to five or six runs, many of which were intense, I was also training at CrossFit twice a week—throwing weights around, jumping on boxes, and so on. The CrossFit had been excellent for me but, with the running, I was exhausted. Eventually, something was going to give. Eventually, it did.

The data that the scientists had collected on me also altered my thinking. Nike has recently contracted a garrulous Chicago physician named Phil Skiba, who has trained many elite endurance athletes, to work on Breaking2. Skiba has developed algorithms that accurately measure and predict training loads. He is particularly interested by fatigue, and the balance between what he calls the “positive and negative effects of training.” In particular, Skiba uses athletes’ training data to predict when, before a race, they should begin their taper—that is, to progressively decrease their volume of training so that they arrive on race day fresh and fast.

Every athlete has a different taper point. Some people need only a few days. Some people need weeks. The variations are explained both by differences in workload and by our physiological differences. Some athletes simply recover quicker from hard training than others, in ways that geneticists and physiologists are still trying to fully understand. Skiba’s data, however, is precise. He and the Breaking2 crew believe that Kipchoge’s taper may have started a day or two late before his previous marathons and that he would have benefitted from around a week of rest rather than his normal five days.


Breaking2 shot by Cait Oppermann for WIRED

Whether it’s worth shifting Kipchoge from his normal patterns for this one race is a concern among the Breaking2 team, especially because routine is psychologically important to athletes. But their analysis shows how a data-augmented approach might yield benefits even for the greatest runners. (As for Lelisa Desisa, another of the three elite runners contesting Breaking2, the Nike scientists believe his taper may be a few days too long.) In my case, based on how I’ve reacted to my training load so far, they believe I should taper for 21 days. 21 days! Clearly, I am more in need of rest than the average lummox.

Slowly by Slowly

Back to Kenya. Watching Kipchoge’s group at work, I saw that they never did two intense days back to back; they were always committed to developing their fitness, in the Kenyan parlance, “slowly by slowly.” Patrick Sang, Kipchoge’s coach and a formidable presence in the athlete’s life, explained to me the basis of this philosophy as he stood at the side of the track with a stopwatch in his hand and his red-and-black hoodie fastened tightly around his head. Our conversation had begun when I asked Sang why Kipchoge’s group were doing a 12 x 1,200-meter session on that day.

Sang said this session was to build “speed-endurance”—the ability to maintain a high speed for a long time. But if you thought about only one workout, you missed the point. The idea of a training program, Sang told me, was to improve every aspect of a runner. The approach was holistic. If you scheduled a speed-endurance session for a Tuesday, you needed to make sure that the following day would be light, so that the guys had time to recover before the Thursday long run. Friday would again be light, before a different kind of speed workout on Saturday. Sunday was a day of rest. A good day of training was worth little on its own, but a good month was worth plenty. Slowly by slowly, the athlete’s shape came. “Every session is a building block,” Sang said.

Breaking2 shot by Cait Oppermann for WIRED

Valentijn Trouw, Kipchoge’s Dutch manager, told me something else interesting: He thought Kipchoge never killed himself in training. The only day on which he would drain every resource he possessed was on race day. “Never 100 percent in any session,” Trouw said. “That’s the philosophy.” This approach made sense to Skiba. “The time to open up a can of whup-ass is on race day,” he told me. “Otherwise, you risk leaving your best performance in training, where nobody sees it.”

“Slowly by slowly” is not a mantra that lends itself to hard-charging Western approaches to fitness. How often do we hear that only hard work brings rewards—that the more you put in, the more you get out? Also, many average Western athletes, like me, do so much of their training at a consistent pace. There’s not enough variation or rest in their schedules. The Kenyans, particularly those in Sang’s group, are more sophisticated in their approach. I’ve never seen more-committed athletes, in any sport, anywhere in the world. But they also know it would be crazy to grind themselves into the dust.

On my last day in Kenya, I was talking to Geoffrey Kamworor, a runner with a wide gap-toothed smile and an easy manner that masks a profound belief in his own talents. As a runner, everything about him is purposeful. In training, he leans into bends with his shoulder, kicking up dust behind him, like a young bull on the charge. In competitions, he is fearless. Now in his mid-twenties, he is the reigning world half-marathon champion and the world cross-country champion. He also won a silver medal in the 10,000 meters at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing.


Breaking2 shot by Cait Oppermann for WIRED

When I asked him what tips he could give to a mzungu attempting to break 90 minutes for the half-marathon, his first thought was to get a good pacemaker. He offered his services. “If you want 4:20 [minutes per kilometer], that’s no problem, I will bring a newspaper,” he said, a bright smile on his face. “If you want 2:50 [minutes per kilometer; 2-hour-marathon pace] that’s also no problem.”

He then became more serious and gave me some real advice.

“Work hard,” he said. “But not every day.”

I wrote that one down.



If you want to get faster run more, it really is that simple, or is it?

Been reading about Arthur Lydiard a bit lately. An article below by Duncan Larkin dismisses the myth that Lydiard was just about distance and slow pace. He also believed in speed work, flexible training and training longevity to achieve true potential. I must agree with him on all three of his ‘secrets’ described below by Larkin.

His approach with speed work fits closely with the 80/20 split championed by Matt Fitzgerald ( http://mattfitzgerald.org ) and also a book I am currently working my way through by Joe Friel,  Fast after Fiftyhttp://www.joefrielsblog.com ). Joe also advocates using high intensity work outs to retain fitness for the ‘older athlete’, rather than relying on long, slow, distance workouts. (LSD) Both these well respected coaches teach secret number 1 below. The second secret about flexible training is also a concept I would agree with. Each runner is unique with their own training threshold, be it distance or intensity, as well as their ability to perform a training program without the danger of injury. Each runner has different parameters that need to be monitored and to do this the coach needs constant feedback on the program selected. Finally Lydiard believed to reach their full potential a runner would need between 3-5 years. I’d hope it takes a little longer as I’m probably on year eight in my journey and hope to find a few PB’s before I start back to the chasing pack, we’ll see.

So it looks like all distance and no pace will not allow a runner to reach their trust potential. You really need to change into the high gears once in a while with fartlek, threshold, tempos and track sessions. These sessions do come with their own dangers but , as runners, we do enjoy testing ourselves and sometimes you just got to run as fast as you possibly can. I understand it can be painful but the feeling you get when you finish an intense session and reach your target is worth the suffering, and let’s face it running fast is fun.

Arthur Lydiard. Photo: lydiardfoundation.org

It’s not hard to start a conversation about famed running coach Arthur Lydiard. The New Zealander, who passed away in 2004, forever changed the sport of distance running by way of his influential teachings. He coached athletes like Peter Snell to the Olympic podium and was a prolific writer in his own right. Lydiard was also a dynamic speaker who preached his training philosophy like a fervent evangelist, creating disciples who still quote him in a quasi-religious way.

Lydiard was a legend, but unfortunately he gets labeled as an elitist and “the long, slow distance guy” who preached rigid periodization in training. At risk of his important teachings being oversimplified and misunderstood, it’s critical that we dig deeper into three of Lydiard’s most under-acknowledged secrets of success:

1. Lydiard believed in speed work.

“Far too many people think Lydiard training is all about long, slow distance running,” says Nobuya “Nobby” Hashizume of the Lydiard Foundation. “How many people realize that he used to have his runners, even marathon runners, compete in a 100-meter dash in a local track meet?” Hashizume contends that many people who study Lydiard’s teachings come away thinking that a lot of long, slow distance is the answer to successful running. He calls it “the plodding zone” and says that Lydiard did believe in 100-mile training weeks, but only to build aerobic strength to prepare the body for race-pace work that followed.

Greg McMillan, founder and head coach of McMillan Running, says that Lydiard’s anaerobic and lactate threshold workouts are often forgotten. “It’s important to remember that [Lydiard] was working with very competitive runners training for shorter distances and though everyone talks about his endurance or base phase, his programs have a lot of fast running as the race nears,” he says. McMillan points out that Lydiard incorporated 2-3 days of speed work after his endurance phase so that the athlete peaked on time instead of the 20-40 x 400m interval workouts used by other coaches that he didn’t think was as predictable in performance improvement.

2. He called for flexible, individualized training.

Many runners think of Lydiard as someone who followed a one-size-fits-all approach, but that wasn’t the case. “As the runner got into the race-specific training, Lydiard was doing many, many test runs and based on how these runs went, the athlete would adjust the program going forward,” says McMillan, who accompanied Lydiard on his final U.S. tour before he passed away. Lydiard knew that flexibility was a vital component to success and that both the coach and athlete had to work together closely in order to observe how the body and mind responded (and recovered) from training and racing. “They had to then adjust to build on the strengths and shore up the weaknesses,” McMillan says.

Rod Dixon, winner of the 1983 New York City Marathon, used to listen to Lydiard speak when he was a young runner in New Zealand and says that Lydiard encouraged “learning by doing.”

“He told us to apply the principles he taught to our own environment,” Dixon recalls. “He wanted us to evolve as runners and keep things simple—not to make the sport a complex formula. We knew that we wouldn’t respond the same way to everything; we learned that we had to adapt in order to run well.”

3. The potential to improve exists in everyone.

Lydiard is best known for the grueling workouts he passed on to the likes of Snell and for attracting the very best runners who were aiming for the Olympic podium, but what many don’t realize is that he worked with runners of all ability levels. “Lydiard is often described as a hard-nosed elitist coach who insisted everybody to run 100-miles-a-week,” says Hashizume. “Quite far from it. Remember, he was not only a maker of champions but also the father of jogging.”

In 1961, Lydiard gathered 20 obese middle-aged runners who couldn’t run a single lap around the track and coached them to run a 4-hour marathon in just eight months. “Arthur’s jogging program was ahead of its time,” says McMillan. “Bill Bowerman and subsequently Jeff Galloway saw how this idea was very, very beneficial to the masses of runners who weren’t trying to go the Olympics but wanted a more appropriate running routine to get them fit and healthy.” Hashizume says that his mentor maintained “hope for positive human potential” and told him that one can never know their true potential until they train systematically and intelligently for three to five years.

Does anybody ever run the long run easy ?

Being Sunday it was the normal early morning alarm call and the obligatory long run with the boys. This  morning it was a 2 hour easy run, not worrying too much about pace but more time on legs, the bread and butter long run. We set of from Hillary’s car park and move gingerly towards City Beach which was 13k to the South and would make a good turning point. As it was we reached City beach dead on 13k and 1 hour , perfect pacing.

Of course on the way back we up’d the pace as we got closer to the finish and the lure of coffee enticed us quicker kilometre by kilometre. A good negative split of 3 minutes and a quick last 5k was always on the cards and yet again we all probably failed in our main goal of a time on feet, easy long run.

Todays long and easy run, fail !


So yet again our long run turned into a progressive, my third for the week, and I realised that running in a group you are always going to end up with a progressive finish, it must be a ‘man thing’ , too competitive. Maybe we need to try and get more females into the Sunday long run group to try and calm the testosterone that eventually always comes to a crescendo when you can smell the coffee, around the last 5k mark.  On the bright side because Mark Lee decided to have a lie in we weren’t running sub 4min/k average for the last 5k and the finish was testing but not ‘pain box’ suffering. Looking back through my last few months of long, easy runs and I seem to have this ‘fast finish’ spurt on all of them, if it’s not Mark it’ll be Ross or the T-train pushing the pace and I’ll hang on because what other option is there ? All thoughts of a long easy run are forgotten and it becomes a ‘last man standing’ sprint to the finish. Maybe I’ll get Matt Fitzgerald alone on one of these long easy runs and see how he goes with 5k to go and the smell of caffeine in his nostrils !! I’m sure he’ll be sprinting to the finish with the rest of us.

An article below from Matt Fitzgerald explains the theory behind junk miles and recovery runs, good news if you like to run slow, which unfortunately me and the boys don’t do on a Sunday. Maybe I’ll print this and hand it out before the next ling run and we’ll discuss it’s merits. It won’t help of course because with 5k to go you know it’s on for young and old……


If you asked a stadium-size crowd of runners to name the most important type of running workout, some would say tempo runs, others would say long runs, and still others would say intervals of one kind or another. None would mention recovery runs. Unless I happened to be in that stadium.

I won’t go quite so far as to say that recovery runs are more important than tempo runs, long runs, and intervals, but I do believe they are no less important. Why? Because recovery runs, if properly integrated into your training regimen, will do just as much to enhance your race performances as any other type of workout. Seriously.

It is widely assumed that the purpose of recovery runs—which we may define as relatively short, slow runs undertaken within a day after a harder run—is to facilitate recovery from preceding hard training. You hear coaches talk about how recovery runs increase blood flow to the legs, clearing away lactic acid, and so forth. The truth is that lactic acid levels return to normal within an hour after even the most brutal workouts. Nor does lactic acid cause muscle fatigue in the first place. Nor is there any evidence that the sort of light activity that a recovery run entails promotes muscle tissue repair, glycogen replenishment, or any other physiological response that actually is relevant to muscle recovery.

In short, recovery runs do not enhance recovery. The real benefit of recovery runs is that they allow you to find the optimal balance between the two factors that have the greatest effect on your fitness and performance: training stress and running volume. Here’s how.

Training stress is what your body experiences in workouts that test the present limits of your running fitness. You can be fairly sure a workout has delivered a training stress when it leaves you severely fatigued or completely exhausted. The two basic categories of workouts that deliver a training stress are high-intensity runs (intervals, tempo runs, hill repeats) and long runs. A training program designed to prepare you for a peak race performance must feature plenty of “key workouts” that challenge your body’s capacity to resist the various causes of high-intensity fatigue (muscular acidosis, etc.) and long-duration fatigue (muscle tissue damage, etc). By exposing your body to fatigue and exhaustion, key workouts stimulate adaptations that enable you to resist fatigue better the next time.

Running volume, on the other hand, has a positive effect on running fitness and performance even in the absence of exhaustive key workouts. In other words, the more running you do (within the limit of what your body can handle before breaking down), the fitter you become, even if you never do any workouts that are especially taxing. The reason is that increases in running economy are very closely correlated with increases in running mileage. Research by Tim Noakes, M.D., and others suggests that while improvement in other performance-related factors such as VO2 max ceases before a runner achieves his or her volume limit, running economy continues to improve as running mileage increases, all the way to the limit. For example, if the highest running volume your body can handle is 50 miles per week, you are all but certain to achieve greater running economy at 50 miles per week than at 40 miles per week, even though your VO2 max may stop increasing at 40 miles.

You see, running is a bit like juggling. It is a motor skill that requires communication between your brain and your muscles. A great juggler has developed highly refined communication between his brain and muscles during the act of juggling, which enables him to juggle three plates with one hand while blindfolded. A well-trained runner has developed super-efficient communication between her brain and muscles during the act of running, allowing her to run at a high, sustained speed with a remarkably low rate of energy expenditure. Sure, the improvements that a runner makes in neuromuscular coordination are less visible than those made by a juggler, but they are no less real.

For both the juggler and the runner, it is time spent simply practicing the relevant action that improves communication between the brain and the muscles. It’s not a matter of testing physiological limits, but of developing a skill through repetition. Thus, the juggler who juggles an hour a day will improve faster than the juggler who juggles five minutes a day, even if the former practices in a dozen separate five-minute sessions and therefore never gets tired. And the same is true for the runner.Now, training stress—especially key workouts inflicting high-intensity fatigue—and running volume sort of work at cross-purposes. If you go for a bona fide training stress in every workout, you won’t be able to do a huge total amount of running before breaking down. By the same token, if you want to achieve the maximum volume of running, you have to keep the pace slow and avoid single long runs in favor of multiple short runs. But then you won’t get those big fitness boosts that only exhaustive runs can deliver. In other words, you can’t maximize training stress and running volume simultaneously. For the best results, you need to find the optimal balance between these two factors, and that’s where recovery runs come in.

By sprinkling your training regimen with relatively short, easy runs, you can achieve a higher total running volume than you could if you always ran hard. Yet because recovery runs are gentle enough not to create a need for additional recovery, they allow you to perform at a high level in your key workouts and therefore get the most out of them.

I believe that recovery runs also yield improvements in running economy by challenging the neuromuscular system to perform in a pre-fatigued state. Key workouts themselves deliver a training stress that stimulates positive fitness adaptations by forcing a runner to perform beyond the point of initial fatigue. As the motor units that are used preferentially when you run begin to fatigue, other motor units that are less often called upon must be recruited to take up the slack so the athlete can keep running. In general, “slow-twitch” muscle fibers are recruited first and then “fast-twitch” fibers become increasingly active as the slow-twitch fibers wear out. By encountering this challenge, your neuromuscular system is able to find new efficiencies that enable you to run more economically.

Recovery runs achieve a similar effect in a slightly different way. In a key workout, you experience fatigued running by starting fresh and running hard or far. In a recovery run you start fatigued from your last key workout and therefore experience a healthy dose of fatigued running without having to run hard or far. For this reason, although recovery runs are often referred to as “easy runs,” if they’re planned and executed properly they usually don’t feel very easy. Speaking from personal experience, while my recovery runs are the shortest and slowest runs I do, I still feel rather miserable in many of them because I am already fatigued when I start them. This miserable feeling is, I think, indicative of the fact that the run is accomplishing some real, productive work that will enhance my fitness perhaps almost as much as the key workout that preceded it. Viewed in this way, recovery runs become essentially a way of squeezing more out of your key workouts.

Recovery runs are perhaps the most neglected type of running workout, probably because most runners don’t see them as making a positive contribution to running fitness and performance. There is a tendency to assume that a run doesn’t really “count” unless it’s at least somewhat challenging, and to train accordingly. Consequently, all too many competitive runners never really do any proper recovery runs—runs that are short and/or slow enough to create no need for recovery. As a result, these runners are seldom as fresh as they ought to be for their key workouts, they don’t perform optimally in them, and they don’t get as much out of them. At the same time, because they go at least moderately hard in every run, these runners are not able to handle as much total running volume as they could if they did true recovery runs.

If this sounds like you, I hope I’ve convinced you that recovery runs can help you race faster, just as tempo runs, intervals, and long runs can, and I hope that this new understanding will motivate you to plan and execute recovery runs with as much care as you do these other workouts.

Now that I’ve sold you on the benefits of recovery runs, let’s look at how to do them so that they most effectively serve their purpose of balancing training stress and running volume in your training.

  • If you run fewer than five times a week, recovery runs are generally unnecessary. Recovery runs can only serve their purpose of balancing training stress with running volume if you run five or more times per week. If you run just three or four times per week, you’re better off going for a training stress in each run, or at least in three out of four.
  • Whenever you run again within 24 hours of completing a “key” workout (i.e., a workout that has left you severely fatigued or exhausted), the follow-up run should usually be a recovery run.
  • Do key workouts and recovery runs in a 1:1 ratio. There’s seldom a need to insert two easy runs between hard runs, and it’s seldom advisable to do two consecutive hard runs within 24 hours. A good schedule for runners who run six days a week is three key workouts alternating with three recovery runs, as in the following example:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Off Key Workout(high intensity) Recovery Run Key Workout(high intensity) Recovery Run Key Workout(long duration) Recovery Run
  • Most elite runners who train twice a day do a hard run in the morning followed by a recovery run in the afternoon, or a hard run in the afternoon followed by a recovery run the next morning. The frequency is twice that of the above example, but the ratio of key workouts to recovery runs remains 1:1.
  • Recovery runs are largely unnecessary during base training, when most of your workouts are moderate in both intensity and duration. When you begin doing formal high-intensity workouts and exhaustive long runs, it’s time to begin doing recovery runs in a 1:1 ratio with these key workouts.
  • There are no absolute rules governing the appropriate duration and pace of recovery runs. A recovery run can be as long and fast as you want, provided it does not affect your performance in your next scheduled key workout (which is not particularly long or fast, in most cases). Indeed, because the purpose of recovery runs is to maximize running volume without sacrificing training stress, your recovery runs should generally be as long as you can make them, short of affecting your next key workout. A little experimentation is needed to find the recovery run formula that works best for each individual runner.
  • Don’t be too proud to run very slowly in your recovery runs, as Kenya’s runners are famous for doing. Even very slow running counts as practice of the running stride that will yield improvements in your running economy, and running very slowly allows you to run longer (i.e. maximize volume) without sabotaging your next key workout.


Is it better to burn out or fade away ?

As I near the end of my first week being 50 I am continuing to look forward and challenge myself to maintain or even better past performances. Can I set new PR’s (apparently a PR is a personal record and only achieved when your time is recorded, via a race etc, . a PB is a personal best and something personal to yourself, without the recording  bit i.e. not a race. I learned this from Facebook , what did we do before Social Media.? ) or new PB’s this year or am I being faced with a gradual (I hope?) decline as Father Time finally catches up with me.

To this end this week I have been reading a book by Joe Friel called Fast after Fifty :How to Race Strong for the Rest of you Life. So  far I’m upto Chapter 5 but it is encouraging albeit Joe seems to be a big advocate of intensity over LSD (Long, Slow, Distance, which is what Matt Fitzgerald champions, and remember in Matt we trust.) Thus I am in a quandary. For the last 9 months I have been following the LSD training with minimal intensity but according to Joe this can be a recipe for disaster. My VO2 max figure will lower and I will lose my fitness slowly over time. Joe describes tests and studies where, as you age, you need to look at intensity over volume. Must admit the front cover did worry me but he seems to have written the book for all athletes.

Joe Friel, forgive the front cover.

The only issue with the intensity training, as Joe rightly points out, is the constant fear of the death of all older runners, are old friend the ‘grim reaper’ , injury. I hate typing that word!  Joe suggests us ‘older runners‘ take longer to warm up than younger versions, and trust me Joe you’re right. Once warmed to ‘interval temperature’ we are normally ok to go but be mindful of the old Hammy’s and calf’s; two of our favourite things to break as older runners.  My right hammy is particularly susceptible to the odd twinge and typing this post I can feel the old girl twitching. She can normally be placated with my old buddy ‘deep heat’,  though I wonder sometimes if this is more to keep No1 Wife at bay. (Only joking Karen, it’s for the hammy honest!)

My goto intensity session is the old faithful Mona Fartlek. A 20 minute session where you can really ask yourself some serious questions and embed yourself in the ‘pain box’. It is one of my favourite sessions and one I have been avoiding lately as the end of the year was all about ultra running and LSD. With the new racing season just about on me it is time me and Mona spent some more time together.  RFYL magazine describes this beast of a session below :-

What: “Mona Fartlek” was developed when Chris Wardlaw (a.k.a. Rabs) suggested that Steve Moneghetti (Mona) go out and do 15-20 minutes of fartlek. Mona, who is just a little bit obsessive-compulsive, and who likes to do things exactly to the letter, delved for a few more specifics. Rabs suggested that he should do 20 minutes, and off the top of his head offered two 90-second efforts, four 60-second efforts, and four 30-second efforts, all with equal recovery. Mona replied that this only totalled to 18 minutes, so Rabs added an additional four 15 second efforts to the end. This is the Mona Fartlek and the story of how it was created.

When to use: Similar to the quarters sessions outlined in Issue 3, this session can be used all year round, and there are a large number of elite Australian runners who will do this session at least once a fortnight at any stage in the year. Given it is a “fartlek” session, it is easy to manipulate the intensity of the session to suit your needs and the time of year. It is a great session to assist in sharpening up for the next competition, but can also be used as a “rolling” session during weeks of high volume or intensity.

What pace: Mona Fartlek is most popularly run with a float recovery, rather a jog recovery. A “float” is a pace that is slower than your effort, but still much faster than what you could term a recovery jog. A good, solid float would be run at close to your half marathon or marathon pace. Depending on your goal from the session, the pace of the efforts will vary from your 1500m pace (if you are after a high-intensity workout) to your 10km pace (if using it as a “recovery” session). At times, Mona Fartlek has been criticised by some coaches as being too short; but when run strongly, it is a great session to assist in building your speed and endurance.

Event best suited to: This is an ideal session for 5km through to marathon and for road, trail or cross-country running. It trains you to run at a good tempo with minimal recovery between efforts. In a race situation, it will allow you to increase your effort on hills or for surges and then be able to recovery with minimal or no decrease in your pace. It can also add some great quality for half marathon and marathon training. The session was originally developed to be run in an unstructured way where the distances of each effort were not necessarily recorded, but if the session is conducted over the same course, comparisons between the total distance covered can make for a good litmus test of your current form. The session can be used on grass fields, roads or trails.

Personally I still like to race as part of the open category and if I can pick up an age group win as a secondary option I’ll take it. These days my podium time is dictated more by runners who don’t turn up than my performance. I have certain times I know I can run and if that is good enough for a top 3 finish great but my window of opportunity is getting smaller as my times slowly increase and the ‘pack’ starts to catch up.  I will then start to look at those age group wins as more of a primary target rather than secondary, and that is fine. I’m hoping with Matt and Joe in my stable I can hold off the pack for a few more years, we’ll see.

On that note I managed to grab another WAMC (West Australian Marathon Club) age group award on the weekend. A nice piece of bling to add to my small collection. These awards are the reward for a hard year racing and a time to reflect on the past year ,while looking forward to the new one. It’s an exciting year 2017 as I move up an age group, it’ll be nice to be the ‘young thing’ in the 50-55 age group, albeit for a year or two only.  These age group wins keep me honest and a world of new records have opened up to me in 2017. I will certainly now be returning to the Australia Day Ultra (http://australiadayultra.com ) in January 2018 to try and grab the AURU 50-55 Australian age group record of 7hrs58mins and I’ll be keeping an eye on the 55-60 WAMC Perth Marathon age group record currently standing at 2hrs59mins in a few years. (I’m hoping it’ll be lower by the time I get to it as my good friend Mike ‘sick note’ Kowal is making a run for it in June as he turns 55 just before the Perth marathon.) There’s also a 50+ age group trophy at the 6 inch ultra marathon this year as well. ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com )

Actually this getting older ain’t as bad as everybody makes out, it could be an opportunity to turn my small bling collection into a large bling collection. Right back to Joe and chapter 5 in his secret of racing into the fifties and beyond.

WAMC Age Group win 45-50


Beware the Mark Lee effect.

Sunday morning is the long run with the lads, although over the years this may have morphed from a Saturday to a Sunday , the weekend long run is the bread and butter run of marathon and long distance runners. We all know that , in the foundation stage at least, this run should be about time on feet. The long run is a reward for all the hard runs you may have completed in the week, it’s a time to smell the roses and eat the pancakes, while enjoying great coffee. Hell, it should actually be time to enjoy running for the pure pleasure of just running. No need to look at the watch (but you must wear a GPS enabled Strava friendly watch of course, otherwise the run never happened!) and time to look up from the pavement and actually enjoy the view of your running surroundings. (Living in Perth and running normally on bike paths close to the ocean this may be a tad easier for me but still you can find beauty anywhere, you may just need to look a bit harder sometimes.)

Over the last 6 months I have been adding distance and doubling up daily and this has been a success, as you can see from my Strava extract. Since Christmas, there has been no slacking off and I feel my body is getting use to the extra workload and I still look forward to every run but….

Strava runs since Christmas.

Recently my friend Mark ‘one speed’ Lee has been joining me for some of my early morning 10k ‘old faithful’ runs and this has made the pace a tad more competitive. This Monday for instance we ended up finishing sprinting up the last hill sub 4min/k pace, on an easy recovery run after the Sunday long run in Bold Park. Not a good idea for us distance fans. This was compounded by a couple of runs early in the week with Justin ‘one pace and it’s quick’ Kelly, after I specifically told him recovery. To add to my pain the runs with Justin were in the middle of the day, so add in heat !

This mornings 24k was again meant to be a time on legs, still recovering from the ADU 100k a few weeks earlier, type of run. Not a chance, with Mark leading from the front we went out pretty hard and came back even quicker. Mark did leave us at one point allowing me to slow the pace a tad but unfortunately (for me) he got lost and rejoined us for the last 5k.


Easy 24k, not in a month of Sundays!

I think you can see the Mark effect from about 20k onwards. Of course you can let Mark go on his merry way but he has the knack of drawing you in and before you know it you’re in a mad dash to the finish. Call it a competitive nature or just plain silly, I suspect at my age it is the latter. (I’m fifty now you know.)

The moral of this story is this week I have been feeling the extra pace thanks to my training partners from hell Mark and Justin. Both are younger, faster and ,at the moment, running less weekly kilometres; add these three things together and you have one very tired 50 year old runner. There is a silver lining to this week of pain of course. If you can survive the experience I believe you come out the other end a better runner but there is the caveat that too many of these weeks will eventually lead to exhaustion and fatigue , which in turns leads to injury. Running the weekly distances I’m currently running I need to be mindful of the 80%-20% split with 80% being easy runs , not the mark Lee version of 20%-80%. (Matt Fitzgerald would not approve!)

The long run is probably the one run just about every runner gets wrong, it’s not in our nature to slow down to a point that you feel there is no benefit. A favourite run of mine is the last 5-10k at marathon pace which may be down to the fact that I feel I haven’t done enough so flog myself so when I’m wolfing down the post-run pancakes I don’t feel guilty. Is this the right approach, according to most coaches probably not but we are fickle things us runners and although we set of with good intentions the next thing you know you’re chasing Mark Lee at the end of your long easy run at sub 3:50min/k pace ! Trust me it happens, I’m sure every running group has a Mark Lee type runner who will push the pace and like rats following the Pied Piper we will follow. On the bright side the pancakes do taste better when you feel you’ve put in a big effort but that’s not the point of the run.

So what to take from this post.? Google ‘Long Slow Run’ and read the results, they will backup the ‘it’s a time on legs run‘ predominately, then next weekend when you are just about done and someone starts to up the pace think about this post and let them go. Long term it’s the thing to do. I reckon the post run pancakes will taste just as good, probably ?


Is fifty the new twenty ?

Well after months of talking it up it actually happened, today I turned 50. I have been so focused on this event I even created a website dedicated to it. www.fitfastfifty.com , which now I can promote.

This morning I celebrated as only a runner can with a 14k progressive run with the boys and a Yelo muffin. I mean what more can any man want on his birthday? Good company and quality muffins with coffee and great banter. I really am very lucky to live in Perth surround by some great friends and family doing what I love, normally twice a day.

The question is of course how long can I keep on improving? 2016 was a breakout year with so many PB’s on the back of the extra training I put in. Is this sustainable? I don’t see why not, I’m enjoying the extra training, truth be told, and the results are well worth it. I suppose the real goal this year is the elusive sub 2hr 40mins marathon. I’ve ran 2hrs 41mins 3 times so I’m close, real close. I’ve targeted the Perth Marathon in June this year, which I have ran 12 times so I know the course well. Perfect conditions and it could be on.

There is also the Utah option in October. A marathon built for PB’s as it’s a point to point with a massive 2560 feet elevation difference. (http://www.stgeorgemarathon.com/information.php ) This has been mentioned to my Wife and I received a verbal confirmation that I could ‘maybe’ go. Sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission? Mike, Dan and Jon are all up for it and I’d love to go. Check out the elevation below, how good is that? Of course I would have to tailor my training to account for the beating my legs will take with all that downhill running but Dan ‘ the man with a plan’ Macey will come up with something and we’ll be ready come October.

St. Georges Marathon, a runners dream or nightmare ?

Funnily enough the course is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon? Go figure, although of course there is no chance of a World Record!

Utah aside I wonder if I will be able to replicate my form of 2016, can I grab a few more PB’s before Father time finally catches up with me? I was even discussing running track this morning, albeit while eating a Yelo muffin and drinking coffee, which may have clouded my judgement. I have never really given the mile a good tilt, I mean how difficult can it be it’s only just over 1600m’s. Sub 4 minutes at 50 years old, that would be special, I would of course be on a bike! Seriously the target for 2017 is not to slow down too much and maybe grab a sub 16:30 5k and my holy grail a sub 2hr 40mins marathon. Early 2018 I’ll be chasing the Australian AURU age group record for the 100k, currently 7hr 58minutes.

Reading this post back it seems to have morphed from a discussion about turning 50 into setting goals to keep yourself honest. That is what to take from this post, it’s no good just running aimlessly you need a goal. This goal gives you purpose and with purpose you have motivation, with motivation you have the ability to be ‘comfortable being uncomfortable’. (A Mark Lee quote this morning.) When you are comfortable being uncomfortable the PB’s will come.

I searched the internet for posts on training in my fifties and not slowing down and found this website which looks promising, I intend to download the book today and read it over the weekend. I’ll let you know how I get on…



What It Takes to be Fast After 50

By now you may be aware of my latest book—Fast After 50—being in print. In February it will also be ready to go as an ebook. This project started out as a birthday present to myself. I was approaching my 70th birthday and that number was scary for some reason. I was afraid of rapidly decreasing athletic performance. So I decided to read all of the research I could find on aging and endurance. There was a ton of it. For the next eight months I read research studies almost daily while taking detailed notes. From that I decided to post what I was learning to this blog (search “aging” here to find the various posts—more than 20 of them!). The blog posts were so well-received that I knew I had to write a book about what I was learning.

The following is an overview to the book. Should you decide to read the book I hope you learn something that proves helpful. I also hope you’ll contact me and let me know how the lessons here are working for you. I’ve gotten several such emails recently and really appreciate them. Thanks!

So here’s what the Fast After 50 is about…


Here I start by telling you the answer to the question that is the underlying theme of the book: Why am I getting slower and what can I do about it? And I get into why I used so much research, rather than simply my opinions, to write this book.

Chapter 1 The Aging Myth

The overriding purpose of this chapter is to come face to face with the aging process by understanding exactly what aging is and also by looking at what the best age group athletes in the world have accomplished in their sports. We also take a look at how “normal” aging differs from athletic aging. The big question here is, How much should one expect to slow down with advancing age?

Chapter 2 The Ageless Athlete

This chapter is about exercise as “medicine.” I get into the common and popular theories of aging so you get a historical perspective of how your advanced age has been explained over time. And I examine some of the physiological markers of longevity, such as telomeres and stem cells, and how exercise alters them—for the better.

Chapter 3 Over the Hill

What’s standing between you and being a fast athlete once again? The challenge is by no means small and requires both dedication and discipline. It won’t be easy, especially at first when your training and lifestyle begin to change. And we’ll dig into lifestyle as a determiner of what your future may look like. That brings us to the twin roles of nature and nurture. You’ll probably be surprised at what aging experts are now coming to believe is the more responsible of these two for how one lives out their life. You’ll come to understand why society at large is doing so poorly in this regard—all of them except you, that is, because you stay focused on what makes you faster. As it turns out, it’s also the stuff that gives you a long and healthy life.

Chapter 4 The High-Performance Senior Athlete

Now the tables begin to be turned. We move away from the downsides of aging and begin looking at what it will take to slow the effect of age on performance or, even perhaps, temporarily reverse it. The objective is to become not only fast but also faster. Here we look at how to once again determine your potential as an athlete, only now an older one. And we start digging into training in order to turn the tide of slowing performance. It all starts with the intensity of your workouts. Surprised?

Chapter 5 Training Basics

But intensity has downsides! I don’t want any injuries or overtraining! Calm down. We’re going to talk now about what stress is in training and why it can cause injuries and overtraining—and, more importantly, how to prevent that from happening. It mostly comes down to greed. We try to get too much too fast. Field testing is suggested to determine exactly where you are right now as an endurance athlete and point you toward faster racing in the future.

Chapter 6 Advanced Training

Now we’re into the heart of the book—how to train as an older athlete. We’ll dig into two of the greatest determiners of performance with aging—aerobic capacity and muscle mass. In this chapter you’ll read about how you can reverse the decline you are undoubtedly experiencing in both of these. Here you will come up with a personalized weekly training routine (I suggest one that is rather novel) to get you back to advanced training once again. Workout types, regardless of your endurance sport, and periodization are described.

Chapter 7 Rest and Recovery

In Chapter 6 you learned about how to train—except for one thing: how to recover. This, in many ways, is the critical concern for the aging athlete as we tend to recover slowly. Here I’ll tell you about such stuff as fatigue (what is it?), sleep (how to improve it), hormones (how to produce more) and nutrition (what the research suggests for older athletes). We also go into a whole host of alternative recovery aids.

Chapter 8 Body Fat

This is the chapter that scares everyone. Nobody likes to talk about body fat—including me. Why do we get more of it, and mostly in certain places, as we get older? Again, the hormone thing! We haven’t got enough and we need more to keep our bellies under control. What can we do about it? Menopause also shows up here. By the end I hope you have a handle (not a “love handle”) on how to combat increasing fat with aging.


Besides summarizing the main lessons of the book, I get into the personal challenges I faced in implementing them. I certainly hope you don’t experience what I did while in the process of writing this book. 2014 turned out to be a doozy of a year and, as a result, I’ve only gotten back on my Fast After 50 training regimen in the last few months. I explain all of this here.

I end the book by thanking the many senior athletes I’ve coached over the past thirty-some years. Amazing people! I remain in awe of how good they are as athletes. The journey for me continues with them as role models.