November 2017

The magic pill to a PB does exist.


Thursday is Yelo muffin time.

This morning as we say outside Yolo ( ) eating muffins and drinking coffee the conversation turned to weight. Bart’s had lost 5 kilos over than last few weeks and this was evident in his running. No longer was he getting dropped early in the 14k progressive pain train that is Thursday mornings. He was lasting till the halfway point and although he would then be dropped quicker than a Kevin Spacey video he was finishing stronger each week. We had to take his word for it of course as, being a sports teacher , he’s not one for these new fangled devices like GPS watches, Bart’s is old school and his cheap Casio digital watch is good for telling the time only, how quaint?

So around the table we went divulging our current weight. Bart’s was a shade over 67 kilos’ which was getting there for a long distance runner, myself , I was around the 72 kilo mark which is at least 2 kilos over my racing weight but with the next few months not offering up any fast marathons I generally ‘let myself go’ a bit. Mike K.’s weight fluctuates more than the stock market with a recession in town, it all depends on how many times he has eaten out that week as well as the little treats he gives himself when he returns from eating out. Next was the King of Carine, young Nic  Harman,  who had just probably set the fastest time for the 14k progressive by a country mile. Nic weighted in at 54 kilos, which is the weight that most Kenyan marathon runners aim for.  Funnily enough Nic just drank water while the rest of us gorged on the best muffin and coffee combination in WA, go figure ? Could Nic had run the time he just had if he weighed in at a ‘normal’ weight, no way.

So can we get to Nic’s weight and turbo-charge our running, unfortunately not. If I weighed 54kilos I would be single (my Wife struggles with my current weight as she grumbles the man she married was nearer 90 kilos than 70 and spent time in gyms rather than pounding the pavement. They’re a funny bunch Wifes? ) and probably struggle to get out of bed no matter run anywhere. This is the card I have been handed by my parents and genetics. Is this the reason why I’ll never challenge the Africans, it certainly plays a part I believe. The other part of course is God given talent and the ability to draw on it. This morning as Nic disappeared into the distance I pondered why I probably put in more time running than Nic but was nowhere near his pace and had no chance of ever finishing a race anywhere near him. Of course this goes for 99% of the running population and I get a lot closer than most but sometimes you need to face facts, there is nothing I could do, nothing, to get anywhere near Nic and his times. Of course this then also translates to the same equation for Nic and the Kenyan runners that currently dominate the running scene of today. What do they have that we don’t ? They have the genetics and the hunger to draw on their talent, mentally they are strong because they face poverty daily and running is their escape. They are also very, very light.

So the magic pill to improve your running may be a pill that you don’t need to take, abstinence may be the answer to all you’re running questions. The cost of course is a big one and the sacrifice substantial but if you really want to improve it can be as easy and walking past the fridge in the evening and choosing a healthy option. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned many times on this topic,  we give up so much as runners , food can be the hardest one to swallow, or not as the case may be. I love my food and side with Matt Fitzgerald and his marathon diet as it advocates carbs and the ‘normal’ runners diet of food I adore. The high fat, low carb diet is something I can never follow because it advocates the complete removal of sugar from the diet. I know sugar is bad but I justify it as fuel that is needed for my running. Imagine no sugar in my diet, the world would be a bland place.

I suppose how we reach our ‘racing weight’ is a personal choice, if you follow the Fitzgerald plan it may mean a smaller portion size or if you go down the HFLC diet it would be the removal off sugar from your diet. The thing is when you get to your racing weight the rewards are huge, as described in the post below. Runners put so much emphasis on the weight of their training shoes stressing about a few hundred grams while adding kilos to their body weight with bad diet and/or poor training. It doesn’t add up.


A post from Amanda McMillan written for explains how your racing weight can make you fitter, faster and more resilient to wear and tear.

Perhaps you have always had the same body and never considered what adding a few pounds of muscle or dropping a few pounds of flab might do for your performance. Alicia Shay, a professional runner and nutrition counselor in Flagstaff, Arizona, says weight shouldn’t be overlooked. “Anyone who cares how fast they’re running should consider their weight part of their overall training strategy,” she says.

It’s most common for runners to find their weight has crept up over the years. Pete Magill, author of Build Your Running Body, didn’t think much about his own gradual weight gain until, at 44, his usual 15-minute 5K times began to suffer.

“When I ran 16:20, I knew I was in trouble,” Magill says. “I’d been racing at 170 pounds since starting masters competition, almost 10 pounds over my race weight back in my 20s.” He couldn’t train any harder, so he went on a diet and dropped to 164. Over the next few years, he set the American men’s 45–49 record for the 5K, at 14:34.

Magill’s not alone. “I can’t imagine you can talk to a competitive runner who doesn’t have a weight-loss-equals-faster-time story,” he says.

But getting to that ideal number can be hard work—especially if you’re already logging major mileage and are used to eating whatever you want. And it’s a delicate balance: Dipping below it or losing weight in unhealthy ways could put you at risk for injury, illness and disordered eating behaviors.

Why Lighter Equals Faster

As a general rule, runners move most efficiently when they’re at the low end of what’s considered a healthy body mass and body-fat percentage. “Running is really just a form of jumping,” says Matt Fitzgerald, certified sports nutritionist and author of Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance. “You can’t move forward without moving up, and the more you have to lift against gravity, the more energy it requires.” Imagine running with an extra 5 pounds strapped around your waist, he explains.

Body weight affects performance in running more than it does in other sports, such as swimming and biking, according to a 2011 Swiss study on Ironman triathletes. And lower body-mass index seems increasingly important as race distances get longer: A 2014 study found that the optimal BMI for male 800m runners was between 20 and 21, while it dropped between 19 and 20 for male 10,000m and marathon runners. (Generalizations about BMI shouldn’t be used prescriptively, Shay says, because it doesn’t take into account lean muscle or body fat.)

There are other reasons lighter means faster: Larger people are less efficient at delivering oxygen throughout the body. Losing weight doesn’t change your lung capacity or function, but it does mean that each breath doesn’t have to go as far.

Leaner athletes can dissipate heat better, too, because they have a higher surface-area-to-body-weight ratio and less insulating fat tissue. They also burn carbohydrates more efficiently. So while weight isn’t everything, it’s certainly a big thing. “Four factors determine how fast you are,” says Sean Wade, a top masters athlete and coach of the Houston-based Kenyan Way running program. “Genetics, form, how hard and smart you train, and your weight—and not necessarily in that order.”

Age Makes a Difference

Masters runners may have the hardest time losing weight—no matter how much they run. Fred Zalokar, 54, averages more than 100 miles a week and for years oscillated between 170 and 180 pounds. But since he cleaned up his diet four years ago, he’s dropped more than 20 pounds, increasing his speed and turnover along the way.

“Weight loss has never just happened for me, even when I was regularly running ultras,” Zalokar says. “If I’m not consciously cutting my calories, I can make up for all that mileage without a second thought.”

That’s because adults begin losing muscle mass in their early 40s, which can impair performance and decrease metabolism, says Emily Brown, RD. Getting enough physical activity (including resistance training to maintain muscle) is especially important, as is cutting back on junk food and oversize food portions.

Tom Storey, 50, who has run Boston seven times, attributes his first qualifying run, in 2007, to weight loss. In just more than a year, he went from 205 to 150 pounds and shaved more than 30 minutes off his previously 4-hour marathon time. Today, maintaining his weight requires sacrifices he’s willing to make. “There aren’t a lot of things I can do to make myself a better athlete,” he says, “but if I can keep my weight down, I know I’ll be faster.”

Crunching the Numbers

Finding your ideal weight—the healthy weight at which you really perform your best—takes some time. “You can’t predict your optimal race weight beforehand,” Fitzgerald says. “You can move toward a goal, and when you have the race of your life, you weigh yourself and get your body composition tested, and there you have it.”

Andrew Lemoncello, 2012 Olympian for the U.K. and a coach for McMillan Running, didn’t find his ideal race weight until going pro after college. “I used to live by the saying, ‘If the furnace is hot enough, it will burn anything,’ “ he says. “I ate healthy foods, but I also loved desserts and never paid attention to my portions.”

When he began spending time with other pro runners, Lemoncello realized he needed higher-quality fuel for his furnace to run at its most efficient. He began planning his meals and stopped mindless eating, and he dropped from 150 pounds to 145. “I started setting PRs and had more energy and confidence,” he says. “If I’m eating well and training hard, that’s the weight my body naturally gravitates to.”

For any weight loss or gain, it helps to have something to aim for. Several online calculators, like Fitzgerald’s at, will estimate your ideal racing weight based on your age, gender and current fitness level. In this case, ideal is defined as what you would weigh if your body fat was at its lowest attainable-yet-healthy percentage, Fitzgerald explains.

Then there are the stats about how much quicker you’ll be by slimming down, like the commonly cited 2 seconds per mile, per pound you are above your ideal weight. But this will vary from person to person, says exercise physiologist Paul Vanderburgh, creator of the online Flyer Handicap Calculator, which helps runners see how their race times stack up against competitors of other ages and weights. Based on VO2 max estimates, it computes your predicted time if you were 25 years old and a scale model of yourself at 110 pounds for women or 143 pounds for men. “It’s strictly meant for comparisons,” he stresses, “not for figuring out the weight you should realistically be to hit a certain time.”

In Build Your Running Body, Magill and his co-authors plot a chart of estimates based on VO2 calculations—for example, that a 200-pound runner can shave 19 seconds off a 20-minute 5K time by losing 5 pounds. Wade takes a simpler approach: “One minute slower per 1 pound overweight is what I tell my marathoners,” he says.

These tools can be good motivators, according to Rasa Troup, a certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD), a 2008 Olympian and current nutritionist for Team USA Minnesota, but she adds that athletes shouldn’t take them as gospel. “My biggest concern is that they distract runners from listening to and understanding their own bodies, because they’re caught up in reaching some number,” she says. “It’s more important to be aware of how tired hungry or sluggish you are feeling.”

Kimberly Mueller, CSSD, owner of San Diego-based Fuel Factor Nutrition Coaching and a 2:52 marathoner, warns that calculators can skew too low with body-fat goals, as well. “Some have estimated my ideal body composition to fall around 12 percent,” she says, “but I know I lose my menstrual cycle if I fall below 14.”

How Much is Too Much?

Many runners could benefit from shedding a few pounds, Troup admits—but only if they have excess weight to lose and only if it’s done in a way that supplements their training, rather than sabotaging it. “Well-fueled athletes will perform well, and well-fueled means something different for every person,” she says. Of course, losing weight isn’t a good idea for all competitive runners. For those who are naturally very lean or who work hard to stay at the low end of their healthy weight, the threat of falling below that point at which you race your best is real.

Stephanie Bruce learned that the hard way when she finished a disappointing 16th at the 2013 Boston Marathon. She and her husband, pro runner Ben Bruce, have spent years perfecting their race-weight strategies, she says, and weigh themselves daily leading up to a big race.

“We didn’t have a scale in Boston, and it was difficult to get in as many calories the day before as I would have been able to at home,” she says. (Bruce has celiac disease and has to be careful about eating food prepared outside of her own kitchen.) “I was probably under by only 2 or 3 pounds on race morning, but it made a huge impact. I had no power; I just couldn’t hold the pace.”

Bruce says she works hard to maintain a healthy weight and has never dropped so low that her health has suffered. But many runners, without enough calories or nutrients, can develop weak bones and compromised immune systems.

That’s what Brian Rosetti figures happened to him. After he graduated from college, he spent two years training almost full-time. His mileage was increasing, but he was focused on low weight instead of nutrition for performance. Just as he made a breakthrough in his training, and as his weight dropped to an all-time low of 146 on his 6-foot-1 frame, he suffered a sacral stress fracture. “My bone density was below the median level, and I don’t think I was getting the right nutrients,” Rosetti says. “I was focused on keeping as light as I could. That’s a scary place to be.” The injury, in effect, ended his career.

Fitzgerald says impaired performance is usually the first sign that a runner has dipped into dangerous territory. “It’s the canary in the coal mine—your body’s signal that it’s under too much stress.”

For women, a missing menstrual period is also an indication of an unhealthy and unsustainable weight, with potential complications like infertility and osteoporosis. And while it’s less talked about, competitive men can struggle, too. A recent Southern Utah University study found that almost 20 percent of male high school cross country runners were at risk for disordered eating behaviors like bingeing and purging. Some boys expressed a desire to gain body weight to be more attractive, while others wanted to lose it to improve their running.

To keep your weight loss from becoming detrimental, the American Council on Exercise recommends maintaining a BMI that stays at or above the normal weight threshold of 18.5 and a body fat percentage above 14 percent for women and 6 percent for men. Some elites dip below these guidelines, Troup says, but it’s not recommended without careful monitoring.

Fitzgerald also recommends tracking your performance. “If you’re getting skinnier but your times are getting worse, you’ve passed the point of beneficial weight loss,” he says.

And above all else, Shay says, listen to your body and your mind. “If you’re starving all the time or you’re irritable and cranky or you’re bonking on runs, you’re probably being too ambitious and getting too light.”

Timing is Everything

The time to prioritize weight loss is in a four- to nine-week period before you start ramping up your workouts, while you’re building your base. “You can’t maximize fitness gain and weight loss simultaneously,” Fitzgerald says.

Mueller agrees. During a competitive season, athletes shouldn’t restrict themselves by more than 500 calories per day. For those who want to lose only a few pounds, 200 to 300 is even better. Stop restricting calories the week of a big race, she adds, because your body will perform best on a full tank.

Bruce says she goes into her training cycles about 3 to 5 pounds over her racing weight, a product of relaxed eating habits and less exercise during her offseason. “I like to have a reserve to pull from, because once I start working out harder, I lose it pretty easily,” she says.

Lemoncello follows a similar schedule during his training period, gaining 5 to 10 pounds when he’s not racing. “It’s good for my running,” he says. “The break helps me feel energized, and I come back motivated.”

Eliud Kipchoge and his training team on a sunrise run, probably no Yelo muffin and coffee combo to finish.

Hills, heat and humidity, welcome to Malaysia.

Hills with a view


I have been to Malaysia several times on business over the years and each time managed to find some magic hills to play on,  cocooned in Malaysian jungle of course. Every time the hills have been brutal, the heat and humidity unbearable but the experience exhilarating. Could I run a marathon in these conditions ? Probably not. There’s a funny story there of course. Earlier this year Jon , fresh from running his first sub3 marathon for many a year, entered the Phuket marathon as it just happened to be on while he was holidaying with his young family. (Nice one Jon!) Anyhow we discussed his time pre-marathon and added 10-15 minutes to account for the conditions. Well how wrong were we.

It all started well enough and Jon made it to halfway in a respectable 95 minutes, give or take, near the pointy end of the field. Unfortunately around this point the wheels well and truly fell off culminating in a ‘nap’ on the course . Yes you read that right, Jon decided to have a little rest by the side of the road and woke up 20 minutes later.!! This is what humidity and heat can do to a good sub3 runner. Of course when Jon discussed this, probably over a bacon and egg sandwich , with no bread ( remember he is the  high fat, low carb (HFLC) pin up boy.) the boys could hardly contain themselves. Jon has been known to walk once in a while, which is always a source of amusement to the rest of us, but a nap while racing a marathon and probably in the top 10%, well he has taken it to a new level.

So back to my latest business trip to KL. I arrived after taking the red-eye ( so named as the flight is either very early or late, either way you arrive with ‘red eye’s due to lack of sleep) I checked in at the hotel and decided I needed to run 10k. After a brief conversation with the hotel porters who looked at me like I had two heads (I’m use to that of course) as I stood there in my running attire preparing to leave the sanctuary of the hotels air condition and venture out into the soaring midday humidity oven. I found a park a block away from the hotel which had a 500m loop around a lake (for lake read large expanse of brown stagnant water) .  I admit it was hot and humid but I always enjoy running in new locations so off I set around the lake for loop number 1 of 20. The run itself turned into a progressive for one reason and one reason only, self preservation. It was the middle of the day at a time when most normal people were hiding from the heat with only one silly Englishman running in circles around a brown lake, getting hotter and hotter with each lap. I did eventually manage the 20 laps but it was more of a lesson in mental toughness rather than enjoyment. I think enjoyment left the party at around lap two to be replaced by ‘what the hell am I doing this for’……


The heart rate stairway to the pain box, welcome to midday in Malaysia.

Eventually I finished and even put in a good progressive but looking at my heart rate there was no way I was going to continue. That’s what I like about hot and humid conditions, every run is a long run and leaves you gasping for air. I don’t think the word ‘easy’ and ‘humid’ are bed partners. After the run , on the way back to the hotel, I couldn’t help thinking about Jon and how he had got to half way in a marathon at a reasonable pace before succumbing to the conditions and resting his weary head. Must admit to a chuckle or two as I staggered back to the hotel looking like I had just showered , a lot !

My next run in KL was around a 1.3k loop in central KL close to the PETRONAS twin towers in the evening, This was a lot more pleasant and I cruised the loop for another 10k. All was good of course until I caught the train back to the hotel. In KL the trains are cold, really cold, and I was hot and sweating, really sweating.  Well as you can imagine when I boarded the train it was like Niagara Falls,  mothers grabbed their small children for fear  of losing them in the tsunami of sweat. Not nice for all concerned.

I had to find a run that would let me get to the start without too many MRT stops and speaking to my colleagues at work it seemed that there was a hill close by with good running facilities. They weren’t wrong, it must be a Malaysian thing but the hill was perfect , long, steep gradient and brutal. Add in the heat and humidity and you had a real test. (treat) I set off up said hill with a smile on my face and wasn’t disappointed 12k later when I eventually left the hill to return to the hotel for breakfast and work. It was too good to not go that evening and grab a few Strava CR’s (course records) after the initial visit showed some ‘gettable‘ records. (Remember Strava is life, the rest is details ; feel free to follow me on Strava , search for Big Kev, Perth, WA… All my runs are on Strava and if you can take anything from this information please do. )

The hill that keeps on giving..


That evening I went back and on tired legs did grab a few CR’s so I l left my mark in Malaysia. I enjoyed it so much I went back again this morning but the legs were well and truly past their sell by date so it became a recovery run very quickly. I suppose 30k of gut busting hills in two days was a tad too much, but what can you do? The conditions were brutal but the scenery inspiring , typical Malaysian, monkeys, wild pigs and all sort of exotic bird life, how can you not go for a run and be part of that?

So the point of this post is when you do get to experience new surroundings go for a run. We all love out local ‘old faithful’ loops we run continually with our friends but once in a while stepping outside your comfort zone is just so much fun. So find a big hill and go and play with it, variety really is the spice of life; and if it all gets too much for you then just find a kerb and have a nap, worked for Jon. (He did eventually finish the Phuket Marathon when he awoke from his ‘beauty sleep but well over the 10-15 minutes extra time we had given him. Lesson learned.)

Jon has been known to have the odd ‘power nap’ but never while racing a marathon? Probably cost him a sub 2 hour marathon WR. (according to Jon)

Sunday long run, time to chase a train.

Sunday was the obligatory long run with the boys and it reminded me of a post I wrote earlier in the year. Yet again we started at a reasonable pace and the first 15k was very relaxed, mainly due to the fact the T-Train was unable to get to the front of the group and set the pace. This was left to Bart’s who had ran 32k the day before and was very keen to keep the pace as slow as possible. This worked until the 10k mark when he announced he was only running 20k and scurried off back to the start to await our arrival after a quick dip in the ocean and a treat of some description no doubt.

Luckily I managed to position myself to the front of the pack and keep Tony at bay for another 10k or so but unfortunately when we hit the coast it was on for young and old as the T-train turned on the afterburners and all of a sudden we moving along at just over 4min/k average pace. This of course made the last 10k challenging but as you’ll see from the post below it is nothing new.

The fast finish at marathon pace is a run that is worth mastering for a number of reasons. Firstly you need to be fatigued to get the benefit of the last 5-10k MP pace, thus you need to probably run at least 20k to enter this state. Time on feet is enough as you’ll bank nearly two hours of running pre-MP finish. This gets you use to the feeling of fatigue and speed that you will need to embrace come the big day. Second once the pace starts to increase us runners are proud beasts and hate nothing more than being dropped. Stubbornness is a trait you will need in abundance to be a successful marathon runner, that and a large portion of tenaciousness.  Either way when the T-train explodes, which he will invariably do, you want to be as close as possible at the finish.

Today I managed to keep Tony and Mark C. in view but even with my top off I was unable to keep up. I was happy enough to keep them in my line of sight truth be told and managed to finish the week off with a 154k total and 11 runs. More than enough for the week and I managed to avoid the second run to make the 100miles, this was mainly due to family commitments but a big week none the less.  This week I’m off to sunny KL for work for so will hopefully be exploring some new runs, well I will definitely be exploring new runs as this is my first time in KL , outside the airport anyhow. The climate will be a challenge, hot and humid, but at least there’ll be no train to chase, maybe, just maybe,  I’ll miss him…..


The T-train , one of my favourite things to chase…


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.

If you want to improve put on a bib.

Last weekend I ran the West Australian Marathon Club (WAMC) Deep Water Point 15k (  ) and ran a PB time, albeit I’ve only ran this race once before in 2012. My 2012 time was 55.14 and good for a second place finish. This year I ran a 53.37 which was a big PB but only good for a fourth place finish and yet again the ‘first finisher with no medal’; got to love 4th !

What did I take from this race, sometimes a PB can be disappointing. The race itself is a two lap course giving runners an option to pull the pin early at 7.5k. I myself have taken this option before when faced with a 5th place finish in the 15k race or a 3rd , and a medal, finish for the 7.5k. Too good to miss , I get to stop running, squeeze out of the ‘pain box’ and also get a nice shiny medal. There is a small feeling of guilt as you watch the  15k runners continue on their merry way but this is more than made up for at the presentation ceremony with a nice medal hung round your neck, or is it ?

This year I needed to run the full distance to complete my eight races needed to put my hat in the ring for the WAMC age group awards. With this in mind I set off at 10k pace, which is the norm for this ‘in-between’ distance. This resulted in arriving at 7.5k in a world of pain with the opportunity yet again to claim a 3rd place in the 7.5k race . Running in fifth two of the four runners ahead of me had ‘bottled‘ and took the 7.5k ‘medal’ option.  Instantly I was on the podium and looking good for a third place finish. I had scanned the start line and recognized no threat to a medal placing bar the two runners now ahead of me. This allowed me to settle back in the ‘pain box’ that is racing and start counting down the kilometres towards the finish.

Racing is painful, there is no sugar coating this. Putting on a bib loosens the central governor and can allow you to possibly take a step up to your next level of running. This comes at a cost, trust me. I love running and I love racing but both ask you to pay , in different currencies. For running generally you pay with time normally, time away from your family and friends (unless all your friends are runners like me.) , early mornings, late nights and normally a general feeling of ‘fatigue’ with the odd niggle and twinge thrown in for good measure. Racing is a different world completely, with racing you pay in ‘pain’ , a single currency that demands total attention. The more pain you can endure the faster you are going to run. This was a conversation I had with Steve Monaghetti after the Perth Marathon in 2016 . I asked him why the elites were so much faster than us ‘normal runners’ , he replied they could stomach more pain, that was the main reason. Got to love racing.

So as always I have digressed from my original story. If you remember you left me cruising along in third place generally happy with life and contemplating another shiny medal. This was about to change very quickly at the 13k mark when, from out of nowhere, I heard the pitter patter of not little feet but a runner behind me. Initially I though maybe it was a really 7.5k runner who had miraculously  found a second gear with a Usain Bolt like finish, clutching at straws unfortunately. It was a 15k runner and he was in a far better way than me, so much so his 13k split was 3.22min/k, faster than my first kilometre, I was in trouble.  Mentally as soon as I heard him on my shoulder I was ‘goosed’, after 5k of suffering in the pain box (and trust me I was in deep!) the only thing that had kept me going was the shiny medal, this was now to be taken away from me. He could have heard me deflate like a balloon as he cruised past and accelerated away to take my medal.

A PB time was no consolation compared to missing out on the medal as these opportunities, at my age, will soon disappear. I treat every podium finish like my last. No worries, onwards and upwards, the PB is a good sign moving forward and maybe next time I’ll treat myself to the odd backwards glance to check for young triathletes bearing down on me, perhaps.

I’ve been recycling some of my posts that I first wrote at the start of this blog when the only readers was my family, well Mum anyway. The one below describes my last race victory, and probably ‘my last race victory’. It also has a good article on reasons to put on a bib and race. Last weekend the magic bib got me a PB and although, at the time, I was disappointed on missing out on the podium now it has give me some confidence for races and challenges coming my way.


10 miles is a long way to go after chasing 5k runners.

Today I put on my race bib for the first time since the Masters marathon three weeks ago. I normally allow four weeks before I race after a marathon but this race is special as I won last year, mainly because none of the normal suspects turned up.  The WAMC (West Australian Marathon Club ) Founders 10miler (16k) is one of my favourite races in the calendar and I have placed in it on two previous occasions with a win last year. The opportunity to defend my ‘title‘ was too good to pass up so after a day off yesterday I set off to the event.

Some people recover quicker than others when it comes to racing marathons and as I mentioned earlier I’m a four week man normally. This is inline with a day per mile going with the imperial system of measurement, so about 26 days.  Other people like Tony ‘The T-train’ Smith use the same imperial system but substitute the day for hours so he can recover in about 26 hours. He is one naughty runner !

This event also includes a 5.15k as well as the 16.1k race. This always make the start interesting because you are never sure who you are racing until after the 5.15k runners dart for the finish line instead of ‘manning’ up and continuing on for the full distance. (I need to be careful here because I have been known on a few occasions to be tempted by bling and take the easier option when faced with a podium for the 5k or a top 5, with no medal, for the longer distance. I admit it , I have a bling problem…)

As expected the start was quick as a number of 5k runners set off at their ‘suicide’ pace and I joined them with the goal of staying as close as possible to the leaders incase one of them decided to continue after the finish line and go long. I didn’t want to leave myself with too much to do to catch them. This works great in theory but of course the fly in the ointment is you normally end up going through 5.15k just behind the leaders and way too fast for a 16k race. As expected this is what happened and I went through the 5.15k mark in second place at 17:35, must admit it was tempting, run through the chute for a nice shiny silver medal and all the pain ends or carry on for another 11k curled up in the foetal position in the pain box.

Funnily enough I was reading the Lore of Running by Tim Noakes yesterday (The bible of all things running.) and the chapter on Training the Mind. (Remember I didn’t run yesterday so what else is there to do but reading about running?) This went into detail about how the mind can be trained during competition. Paragraph headings like dominate from the start, allow for the unexpected, concentrate and focus, give a maximum effort and perform up to expectation. All easy to read while you wait for your daughter to finish her dancing lesson but when you’re racing at maximum effort and in a world of pain it’s not so easy. I did recall this while racing and it certainly brought at least a smirk to my face, not sure I ever really smile when I’m racing short distances.

Right, where were we, of yes at 5.15k and in the lead as the only runner infront of me was a 5.1.5k runner and had scuttled of to collect his gold medal. So it was just me and the lead bike ridden by my friend Ross who I run with on the weekend. Ross is a good lead bike in the fact he knows just to ride, let runners know I’m coming and avoid any type of conversation with me as , like me, he knows when you’re racing it’s all about concentration and pain mitigation, conversation does not come into it, ever ! Luckily for me , like last year, none of the usual suspects turned up so I was able to record another victory, which at my age is cherished. This would be my third for the year but only my 6th ever top finish so it really is a wonderful feeling.

WAMC Founders 10 milers. A rare win.
WAMC Founders 10 milers. A rare win.

So what did I take from the run.

  1. Nothing makes you run faster than a race bib pinned to your chest. I understand this comes with a price, the nerves pre-race, doubting your ability, training and the pain you know you must go through to be your best. All these things are part and parcel of racing and need to be embraced and overcome. When you cross the line and achieve your goal all these are forgotten instantly and the ‘runners high’ that takes their place justifies everything that comes pre-race. You will also use more fast-twitch muscles in these race situations with is another big benefit.
  2. You need to be realistic pre-race and set yourself goals determined by past experience, current training workload and pre-race training runs. Every race cannot be a PB time so adjust your goal accordingly. You may not need the goal A, B or C option that comes with longer races but still give yourself a range of what could be called ‘acceptable’.
  3. Do not start the race at suicide pace and then expect to finish strong. Doesn’t happen unfortunately. As described above my splits were not ‘one for the ages’. They varied by around 20 seconds a kilometer which is not ideal. Ideally I should have started about 10 seconds a kilometre slower and this would helped to towards the end of the race. I knew I had started too quick but experience allowed me to roll the dice so to speak in an effort to give me a good buffer to second place. This would have been enough to probably make them settle for second early and not make an effort to catch me. This is more racing tactics but even in the middle of the pack you are racing people and this little tip may help gain a few places.  (Assuming the suicide pace start doesn’t morph into a suicide pace finish which has the opposite effect.)
  4. Enjoy the experience of racing as these times are the litmus test of your training and can be a great confidence booster and also give you renewed energy once you get back into the ‘slog‘ of daily training.  You will find a spring in your step (after a few recovery runs) after a successful race and this can be carried forward to the next one and beyond. I certainly use races as justification for all the hard effort I put myself yourself through in training, coupled with the benefit of point 1 of course.
  5. Sometimes a good race can move a runner to a new level complete with new expectations and goals. Yesterday my mate Gareth ran a 10 minute PB and was elated with the whole experience. I have mentioned Gareth before in my posts as the ‘runner who treats running as something he does in-between injuries” , to see him so animated after such a great run sums up the feeling only a race can give you when you achieve something you thought beyond you. Gareth has been on the cusp of breaking through his current ‘expected times’ on a number of occasions but has been thwarted by injury, maybe yesterday was the start of his rise to greatness. If nothing else the run would have given him the confidence to move forward and I guarantee he’ll be ‘champing at the bit’ to get running post-race.

Had to end with an article I found on the subject of racing that probably sums it up better than my ramblings. So to sum up racing in a few words ‘just do it’.



7 Reasons to Make the Start Line Your Friend


The race is the beauty part. The time you put it all together is the race,” said noted running author Dr. George Sheehan. And, whether you run one kilometre or 50, racing is exhilarating.

Many run so they can race, but some are leery of the endeavour. Let’s delve into why racing comes with benefits.

Nick Walker, a runner for 15 years and owner of Frontrunners store in Langford, B.C., says racing helps connect people. “We find a lot of people through races who are new to the area,” he says. “Racing gives people a goal and purpose. It encourages them to get out and go.”
Keith Iskiw, a runner from Kingston, Ont., says, “No other sport allows both beginners and professionals to share the same arena. The excitement, tension and joy shared between people makes the race events fantastical.”
Alan Brookes, race director of the Canada Running Series, says racing gives people at the front a platform to develop athletic careers and gives amateur athletes a chance to race head-to-head against age-group categories and clubmates. New runners get a sense of achievement in their new, healthy lifestyle, with benchmarks, rewards and encouragement.

“When I participate in an activity, I like to do it well. I don’t have to win. I just have to be satisfied that I gave my best effort,” says Jerry Kooyman, a runner who has competed at a national level, running in a couple of Canadian Olympic trials. When he hits rough patches in training, the prospect of a race motivates him to train and set goals such as achieving personal bests, winning medals or beating other successful runners.

Ken Parker is the founder and coach of the Ottawa Athletic Club Racing team. He is also a co-founder and race director of Ottawa’s National Capital Marathon. Parker is no stranger to racing; his marathon personal best is 2:42. He feels racing encourages discipline and enticed him to study running to optimize training. “It made me focus on a goal and get organized to do what was required to achieve that goal,” Parker says.
Walker, a former University of Victoria track athlete, says racing keeps him honest and modest. It keeps his competitive edge honed and says shorter races can be great preparation for longer challenges. Walker recently won the Island Race Series Sooke 10K and the Merville 15K, races he ran at 3:17 and 3:20 pace as part of the preparation for his first marathon in Vancouver in May. “I try to have a fun outlook,” says Walker. “But I take racing more seriously. I still like to push hard.”

Race-day fears are normal. After more than 40 years of racing, Kooyman says in the back of his mind he worries about injury during a race and fears that he will work hard during the race, only to be out-kicked at the end. Still, he keeps racing, leaving his fears in the dust of his race-day speed. Iskiw’s advice for hesitant runners is to remember we are built for competition, and that deep down we all have a drive to win and the only way to satisfy that hunger is through competition.

Measuring Progress
Your first 10K may not tell you much about your progress, but after a year of racing, a runner can gauge success.
“Progress may initially be measured by weight loss and increased mileage, but once I get beyond those basic measures and get into a regular training program, the most reliable measure of progress is improved race times,” Kooyman says.

Races open themselves to runners of all levels. A racer can compete even if he is at the back of the pack. A suggestion from Brookes is: “If you’re really nervous, start right at the back, run the first half easy, then count how many people you pass in the second half or the number you pass the whole way.”
Competition helped Parker. He says: “In the marathon, I ran against the clock and ignored other runners for the most part, using them only toward the end of the race when, hopefully, I was passing them. In track races, I used the head-to-head competition to race harder. Fast times would come as the result of racing a strong competitive field.”

Through his racing, Parker learned that anything worth doing is worth doing well and that success does not come about by accident. A progressive runner never stops learning. Introducing racing into your running program provides a platform of wisdom. You learn more about yourself, and running in general. The race and people involved provide the anecdotal evidence. The question lingers, “Why not race?” If you are hesitant to toe the starting line, take Kooyman’s words to heart: “You don’t know what you are missing!”

Progressive runs, a holy grail of training runs.

Yelo 14k progressive, it must be Thursday. (the infamous Mark Lee is the third from the left just incase you’re wondering…)

I wrote the post below on November 17th last year which was ironic as I ran with Mark Lee yesterday morning on yet another Yelo progressive run, he didn’t let me down yesterday as the photo above shows. In the post below I ran alone but lately we have a regular Yelo 14k progressive crew now who all meet at 5:30am and explode onto the bike path for a 14k out and back loop to Floreat Beach.

The progressive run really is one of my favourites because you can build into it and although the ‘pain train’ cometh there is an element of acceptance which makes it a little more bearable. It is to be noted this progressive was extra brutal due to the Rottnest Marathon a few weeks ago, the heat (as we are coming into a Perth summer) and my rabbits, being Mark Lee and Phil,  being relatively rested and thus uncatchable.

At 10k I was making up all sort of scenarios to slow, I have to race the weekend was one, my legs are still recovering from the Rottnest Marathon another, it’s too hot, I’m too old, etc. etc. Needless to say I ignored all of these negative thoughts and pushed on for another couple of kilometres before accelerating down the last hill as I smelt the coffee and muffins.

It is to be noted the run itself was an extra 500m’s due to Phil persuading us all to run through a building site and several dead ends, I felt like a lab rat ! At the time there was much laughter and joking about this mini-detour but I can tell you it was a different story at the end of the 14k distance and you still had another 500m to go, with your heart about to explode through your chest cavity ! Thanks for that extra time deep in the pain-box Phil.

As I posted this article at a time when only my Wife and Mother actually read my posts , for different reasons, my Wife to make sure I was actually running (though I can’t for the life of me think of anything else I could have been doing?) and my Mum because that’s what Mum’s do, take an interest in their Sons hobbies even when he’s the wrong side of 50, bless ’em. Thus it worth a read if only for the excellent article by Greg McMillan, who knows a thing or two about running. ( )

Rereading the post below I realised this was probably the first 14k Yelo progressive, a run that has since become a weekly occurrence, if Mark had turned up that fateful morning we may had run a completely different route and the 14k Yelo progressive may never have happened. All those muffins that I have enjoyed over the last year may never have happened. Looks like I owe Mr.Lee and his ‘man-flu’ a big debt of gratitude as this run now must rank as probably my favourite, for various reasons. Over the last year there has been so many good memories created because of this run and of course some serious coffee and muffin combinations put away. It has become more than just an early morning run, it’s more of a time for runners to just enjoy the pure art of running faster and faster until you can go no faster. The thrill of reaching a point of near exhaustion and pushing on, albeit briefly, of feeling totally alive and at one with yourself and your surroundings. Running gives you so much and never more so than on a well executed progressive, trust me on this people you need to run progressive runs, the coffee and muffin combo afterwards is a personal taste and unless you live in Perth, Australia, you ain’t ever going to get that Yelo feeling. If you ever do make it to Perth you’re more than welcome to pop along to Yelo, Trigg Beach around 5.30am on any given Thursday morning, just look out for a motley crew of men wearing very little with a glint in their eye……..


As I was let down by my training partner this morning (For the second time in 2 weeks !, for a fitness coach my friend, who shall rename nameless , Mark Lee doesn’t half get a lot of colds.?) I decided to still leave from my favourite cafe, Yelo, so when I returned in an hours time it would be just opening and I could reward myself with a muffin coffee combo before scurrying off to work. Setting off towards City Beach I was enjoying the views of an early morning Perth spring morning, see below. Ok I may have put on a filter to boost the colours (as is the way on social media these days.) but it was pretty inspiring, albeit alone.

Trigg on a Perth spring morning.
Trigg on a Perth spring morning.

While initially dawdling along towards City Beach I did start to feel a little guilty knowing what I was going to reward myself with at the end of the run . (photo attached at the end of this post) To this end I thought I’d better at least run for a full hour and also make 14k. I was also wary of running the marathon less than 2 weeks ago so had to make sure I didn’t get too excited as the second week of recovery is the dangerous time when runners think all is good and step up too early.  I put that last bit in italics for a reason, it needs to be digested and understood. Take it easy for 2 weeks, not just the first week post marathon.

So while I was dawdling along I concluded the best type of run for the occasion would be a progressive. As the names suggest you get progressively quicker each kilometre with the last few being the fastest. This has many benefits as I feel it allows you to warm up first and also you gradually increase the pace rather than shock the legs by hitting the turbo button with little warning. This to me is a lot easier on the legs compared to a threshold or tempo where you can find yourself running quickly on cold legs, a recipe for disaster.  Another good point is you can start as slow as you like, I’d even encourage you to start real slow as it makes the progressive pace increase easier. No point exploding out of the blocks on a progressive run as it makes the whole experience null and void when you start to progress the wrong way half way through your session.

This morning I was perfectly primed for a good progressive and managed to gradually increase the pace each kilometre ,  the pace of course quickened after the turn around as I was heading back to my favourite cafe in the whole world with the best muffin combo on this planet. (And probably the solar system , though this is my opinion and cannot be substantiated.)  I didn’t kill myself as I was wary of my two week rule (post marathon) so finished relatively fresh which allowed me to skip up the stairs to Yelo and claim my reward.

It seems I am not the only advocate of progressive running as Greg McMillan has written a great article also highlighting its benefits. He agrees with my points about being easier on the legs due to the slow start but also gives you 3 options and explains more about the stamina benefits. Personally I have only ran the increase pace each kilometre progressive but must admit to a few fast finishes as I’ve chased the young whip-snapper the T-train at the end of a long run, got to keep these young fella’s honest. The marathon pace finish to a long run is another favourite of mine but I’ll leave that to another post.


Greg McMillan wrote a great article on progressive running which is worth a read.



Over the last few years, my athletes have benefited greatly from workouts called progression runs. In a progression run, you begin running at a slow, easy pace but finish at a fast pace. Not only will you find progression runs to be fun, but they are a great way to boost your fitness without any lasting fatigue. And, the benefits are the same no matter if you’re a 2:15 or a 4:15 marathoner.

Three Types of Progression Runs

While the idea of the progression run is simple – start slower, finish faster, I recommend that you begin with structured progression runs until you learn how to properly gauge your effort throughout the run. Below are the three structured progression runs that I have used successfully.

1) Thirds

The first type of progression run is called Thirds. As the name implies, you break your run into three equal parts or thirds. For the first third, you run at a relatively slow, comfortable pace. As you progress to the second third of the run, your pace will have gradually increased to your normal steady running pace. Over the last third of the run, you increase your speed so that you’re running a strong, comfortably hard pace. For many competitive runners this effort corresponds to somewhere around marathon race pace to as fast as half-marathon race pace and a heart rate between 80 and 90% of maximum. This strong running significantly improves your Stamina which raises the pace you can run before you begin to rapidly accumulate lactic acid.

For your first thirds progression run, choose a 45-minute easy run. Run the first 15 minutes slowly, the second 15 minutes at your normal pace and finish the last 15 minutes at a strong pace. While I break the run into thirds, your pace doesn’t radically change after each third. Instead, it is a gradual but steady increase across the run. After getting your feet wet with this first thirds run, you can adapt the concept to any duration/distance.

It’s important to note that the pace of the final third is NOT all-out running. An appropriate pace for the last third is approximately Steady State or Tempo pace.* Could you run faster at the end? Of course! But that’s not the goal of this particular progression run. In fact, if you run too hard in the last third, the workout becomes more like a race, which causes too much fatigue for the purposes of a progression run.

It’s likely that on some of your runs, you already do a thirds progression run without even trying. When you are fully recovered from previous workouts, the body seems to just naturally progress to a faster pace as the run goes along. And please note that I suggest you do this on an ‘easy run’ day not a ‘recovery run’ day.** For all but a select few elite athletes, progression runs should not be used on days when you are recovering from a previous workout or race.

Lastly, I find a thirds progression run to be an especially beneficial workout for experienced marathon runners – runners who can handle an additional up-tempo day in addition to their other key workouts and long run. The most important caveat, however, is that you must not push too hard in the last third. Strive for a medium-hard pace (around your Steady State Pace).


The second type of progression run I call DUSA – after the Discovery USA program where we did a lot of this type of running. To perform a DUSA progression run, run for 75-90% of your total run at a steady, easy pace. Then, as you approach the final 15-25% of the run, you really pick up the pace. For competitive runners this means half-marathon to 10K race pace with a fast finish the last quarter mile. It’s exhilarating! You can then jog or walk for five minutes to cool-down. DUSA’s are not a race but almost feel like one, and you’ll likely find that your heart rate goes to over 90% of maximum by the finish.

For many runners, I assign this DUSA progression run as part of a 50- to 60-minute run where they run easily for 40 to 50 minutes then “progress” to a strong pace for the last five to 15 minutes. With my elite marathoners, I assign DUSA progression runs of up to 90 minutes in length and with up to 15 to 25 minutes fast. But, by simply using the idea of running the last 15-25% of your run at a faster pace, you can adapt this progression run to whatever duration or distance you run.

Compared to the thirds progression run, a DUSA involves a slightly faster pace for a slightly shorter amount of time and provides a little different stimulus to the body.

You’ll be surprised at how fun a DUSA workout is and that it really doesn’t take much out of you. I insert it into an athlete’s program where I want to make sure the athlete gets some quality running but can’t afford a long recovery time after the workout. Again, the idea is that we get a few more minutes of Stamina training integrated into the training week but that none of these fast portions are intense enough or last long enough to cause any lasting fatigue. You should not feel any effects of the DUSA progression run on your next run. If you do, you are probably pushing too hard in the faster portion. You may also want to change where you insert them into your program. Consider including more recovery runs before or after your progression runs.

3) Super Fast Finish

The final type of progression run is one of my personal favorites and was utilized by Paul Tergat in his build-up to the Berlin Marathon where he set the world marathon record of 2:04:55. For this workout, the name says it all. You run a normal steady run but run super fast in the last three to six minutes of the run. When I say super fast, I mean super fast. Pretty much like a 5K race to the finish. Like the DUSA workout above, these runs are exhilarating yet don’t require a long recovery. They are fast enough to really stimulate your Speed and Sprinting ability (muscle recruitment, coordination, mental focus and lactic acid tolerance) but short enough (three to six minutes) that you will feel no lasting effect on your next run. That said, you must be accustomed to fast running before trying to run asuper fast finish progression run otherwise you will likely be sore from the speed.

We did a lot of these when I was in high school. We would run our normal easy run pace but as we approached the last half mile before getting back to campus, we would begin to push very hard. It’s probably even fair to say we raced each other to the finish line. Our thought was that this super fast finish established a habit out of finishing fast so that when it came to a race, no other team would be able to finish as fast as we could. It would just be automatic that we would run hard at the end. As warned in the previous progression runs, we did not do this on our key recovery days. We ran it on a day where we were completely recovered.

How Progression Runs Benefit You

While the above told you the “how’s” of progression runs, I want to also tell you the “why’s” so that you can be smart if you integrate this type of training into your program. I find that progression runs are effective for three primary reasons. First, we know that warming up the muscles by starting out slowly not only decreases your risk of injury but “primes” the physiological pathways that will be used in faster running. If you push too hard before the appropriate energy delivery systems are ready for the effort, then you will stress the anaerobic systems; not what we’re after in our normal, everyday runs. In fact, going anaerobic (or more correctly, building up too much lactic acid) can even inhibit the development of your aerobic system so make sure that if the purpose of your run is to develop your aerobic system, you don’t start the run too fast.

Second (and I think this is most important), progression runs allow you, across your training cycle, to increase the volume of faster, stamina-type training. For example, if you include a couple of 60-minute progression runs that include 10 minutes at a fast pace in your program each week, you will add an additional 20 minutes of stamina training to your program. Across your training cycle, this additional stamina training results in a much fitter athlete.

Third, this increase in the volume of stamina training comes at a very small price. Correctly using progression runs results in very little fatigue compared with normal running. In fact, my experience has been that the athletes who most often suffer from overtraining, injury, undue fatigue and poor racing are those who push too hard, too soon and for too long in their runs, particularly their easy and recovery runs. Progression runs allow you to insert fast running into your training runs (feeding your need for speed) but in a way from which you can easily recover.

How to Integrate Progression Runs into Your Training

As important as it is to understand the why’s and how’s of progression runs, it’s more important to know how to safely and effectively incorporate them into your training. I recommend that near the end of your Lydiard-style base phase you first add one progression run into your weekly schedule with ample recovery time leading up to and after the progression run day. In other words, don’t do a progression run on the day after your long run. Once more accustomed to progression running, then you can begin to include more in your weekly schedule based on your experience level, training frequency and training phase.

One note: just because progression runs are beneficial, this doesn’t mean that “all” of your runs should be progressions. Progression runs are just one component of a well-balanced training program and can be used to temper any tendencies to start runs too fast. They also add some (often much needed) variety to runs, which keeps things fun. The number of progression runs that you can tolerate each week is dependent on your experience level and ability to tolerate training. If you run three to four times per week, you may only run a progression run every other week – the other days being devoted to other types of training. A pro runner who runs ten to 13 times per week, however, may run two to six progression runs per week, mostly DUSA and super fast finish workouts. Like all training, you must start conservatively and see how your body reacts to progression run workouts. With this information, you can find the optimum training routine that works for you.

Final Thoughts

The next time you are in a relaxed training phase, try incorporating progression runs into your program. The workouts not only add variety and make training fun, but significantly boost your fitness without a lengthy recovery. Used as part of a smart, overall approach to training that includes building an endurance base, gaining strength through stamina training, adding speed and working on your finishing sprint, progression runs will give your fitness a boost.


This is the last photo of my Yelo muffin this week I promise, but I must warn you it is a beauty. The muffins at Yelo really are special. ( )

Yelo muffin and coffee. Perfect (alone) Thanks. Mark Lee.
Yelo muffin and coffee. Perfect (alone) Thanks. Mark Lee.


The magic of trail running, it’s in the company.

The Yaberoo trails less than 20 minutes from home but I rarely, read never, venture north and inland. It’s always the coast or a trip to the ‘hills’ via Darlington. I stumbled upon the Yaberoo trail via Google of course, how did we survive before Google ? My first foray was a few weeks ago pre-Rottnest marathon and I only ran 10k as I was in taper mode. It was hard to turn at 5k for my return trip because I was enjoying the trail so much but knew in the last few weeks pre-marathon more really is less.

With the T-train that is Tony Smith being a local  ‘up-North’ we were in good hands but truth be told the trail was just about idiot proof so getting lost would be difficult. We met at the trail entrance at Burns Beach road at 6am all ready to hug trees. The day was going to be warm so the early start is mandatory in Perth from about October onwards, this was another reason to hit the trails, shade. As with all Sunday long runs the first 5-10k are all about catching up with the local ‘man gossip’ in Perth, well the running world anyway. This is one of the main benefits of company, time and distance can disappear very quickly. The T-train had dropped water at 7.5k  and this was eagerly consumed as the day was warming up quickly, as is the way in Perth. We continued on our merry way and were surprised to hit the half way point at 41.5k as Tony had promised us a 32k run, so even with our limited math we expected the halfway at 16k. Jon, being an accountant, confirmed this. We’re not sure if the trail had been shortened due to the earths tectonic plate movement (and no one noticed) , unlikely, or Tone got it wrong, likely. Either way we stopped for a selfie using Jon’s seflie stick which I assume all trail runners have and do , well looking at the various Facebook trail running groups this seems to be the case ?

Half way and all is good. (from left to right, Bart’s, Ross, T-Train, myself and Jeff,  with Jon and his selfie stick at the front. Well it is his stick…)

Another reason for our disappointment was the run had disappeared before us so quickly and effortlessly. This either meant we were in good form or , the more likely option, the first half was mainly downhill and we would pay the piper on the return. Not to worry, there was still plenty to talk about and off we set on the return journey bouncing up the trail like Tigger chasing heffalumps and woozles.  It soon became apparent option two was the reason behind our rapid outward journey, well maybe not rapid but requiring less effort than our inward journey would. Not to be deterred we all remarked on the scenery and even though there seemed to be hills where before there were none (How does that happen? So many times on out and back courses you find hills that were not there on the outward journey, running is a weird and wonderful sport with so many little surprises, appearing and disappearing hills is obviously one of them. ) our mood was not dampened.

What is the difference with trail running compared to the concrete jungle most of us run daily ? I think the biggest difference is the virtual silence, bar the native fauna, (and the constant chatting of your fellow runners) and of course the natural beauty that really is inspiring. When you look up from the trail and take it all in it is breath taking. You realize how lucky you are to be doing what you love with good friends in a surrounding that is just amazing. For me the icing on the cake (excuse the pun) of course is the breakfast coming my way at the end of  the trail, but that is personal I suppose. (Must remember this is a running blog, not an eating blog , though looking back on many posts they seem to be related?)  Trail running is also good for teaching a runner good form as they cannot ‘zone out’ and aimlessly put one foot infront of the other,  paying little attention to the terrain. Do this on a trail and you’ll find yourself on your backside quicker than you can say ‘sprained ankle with ligament damage’. If you look at the finishing photos of the 6 inch ultra you’ll see a lot runners sporting claret indicating a fall somewhere on the trail. This was another reason for the trail adventure, 6 inch training.  (

I think the photo below sums up our feelings compared to the first photo just after the start. Another thing trail running does it test you, which is good but you certainly earn your waffles and coffee after a long trail run, more so when you add in some altitude. After this photo there was still another 7.5k to the finish and a couple of those nasty hills that weren’t there on the way out, funny that ?


Return journey, a few less smiles , more grimacing. ?

Mission accomplished we then all scuttled off to the nearest café , which in this case was at Burns Beach and after a quick swim we settled down to the post run conversation, good company over good food sitting in the sunshine, we really are blessed in the land of milk and honey. (or should that be pancakes and coffee?)

I reckon the trail was too much for Bart’s as he over ordered for the first time in many years. Mug of coffee plus a large boost juice pre-breakfast. Fatal mistake as the food was late arriving and by the time it did he wasn’t in the mood to eat it. It was a pity because the breakfast looked really good but Bart’s certainly played a DNF card. He did confess to over indulging the night before and this may have combined to his downfall, either way it was another talking point, I’m surprised we left that café before lunch.


A rare sight, Bart’s well and truly beaten even before he stared.

If you want to experience the Yaberoo Trail in a race situation it is part of the WA Ultra Series run by my friend Shaun Kaesler. Have a look at the website for the event, , or the Series as a whole ,  . Shaun has put together a World Class Ultra Series for WA and is to be commended for his passion for all things Ultra, he’s also a really nice guy with a great beard !

Yaberoo Ultra Series part of the WA Ultra Series.

Has the Ultra become the new marathon ?

Running has become more and more popular , not seen since the days of the Sony Walkman revolution of the early eighties when for the first time you could run with music. (To the young generation amongst us we used a  thing called a ‘tape’, analog not digital music. ) People new to running inevitably join a running club or run with more experienced friends and before they know it they’ve signed up for their first race. This is a good thing as I believe you never push yourself as much as when the competitive juices start to flow with a racing bib on your chest. One thing leads to another and before too long you’ve entered your first half or full marathon.

Invariably this distance is conquered and you’ve informed all your friends via Facebook and normally your work colleagues via daily updates on your progress. The problem arises though when the marathon doesn’t seem to cut it for kudos like it use to. In the office there seems to be quite a few marathoners and worse most are faster than you. You start to get compared to John in accounts who ran sub3 or even Sheila in Purchasing who ran has ran 10 marathons while juggling family commitments and a busy career. So these days to get some real kudos it’s time to take this running to the next level, the ultra-marathon.

The ultra has the added benefit of the slower you run the more kudos you get,  where as the marathon is, these days, about not only completing it but also setting a good time. Non runners are getting use to people telling them they’ve ran a marathon and have responded asking how long they took. Again they are wise to what they consider a good time and if you reply ‘4 hours’ they look at you with pity and  ask ‘what went wrong’? Not so with the ultra-marathon. Because it is still not mainstream a non runner has no idea what a good or bad time is for an ultra and even if they did the distance can be varied to confuse them. Remember an ultra is anything longer than a marathon distance, it can be 42.3k upwards.

The ultra gets even better, they tend to be in far flung locations and have pretty serious titles, again earning kudos points. How good does an ‘ultra-marathon in Death Valley‘ sound. Death valley, c’mon, if that doesn’t get serious kudos around the drink fountain nothing will. Ok, Sheila from Purchasing has ran 10 marathons but she’s never ran an ultra-marathon in Death Valley. They have no idea where Death Valley is or even what an ultra-marathon is but who cares, you are now the running god in the office, someone who wouldn’t waste their time with silly ‘girl distance’ like marathons. The universe is realigned and you can ‘strut’ around the office yet gain.

The only downside to this new running adventure is the office folk then look to you for more and more longer distances and/or exotic locations. After your first ultra you can never repeat that distance as non-runners , although initially impressed , soon become impervious to distance running unless there is a serious upgrade or the location adds some spice. e.g. The Marathon Des Sable (, the toughest footrace on Earth. ! ( ..On Earth? are they saying there’s a tougher footrace not on earth, the Moon 100k maybe? Now that would be worth talking about !??)

A word of warning of course,  you may come across the non runner who knows a thing or two about ultra-running and while you strut around the office sprouting off about a 100k race on the local trails,  basking in the adulation of the finance department,  they walk past and grunt it was ‘no Marathon Des Sables’. Instantly your credibility is destroyed and you sneak off back to your desk plotting your next adventure.

So to sum up,  an ultra marathon may fill the void in the office kudos states. It has the benefit of still being relatively hardcore, in the view of the uneducated, allows you to focus on distance and not time (to counter that nasty sub3 runner in Accounts) and even allows you to slow down and take your time as the longer you take will actually earn more brownie points.  I won’t even start to mention the extra equipment you get to buy and use on ultra-marathons. The wardrobe options are endless and include camelbacks, gators, water belts and my mate Mark’s favourite,  a cappuccino machine. ! (He doesn’t actually bring along a cappuccino machine but he wore a water belt once that had so many accessories he might as well have!)  This can become more of a hindrance than a help as I always remember feeling my mate TB’s camelback at the end of the 6 inch ultra-marathon ( ) and it must have weighted 10k; and that was at the END of the race not the beginning !!

The 6 inch is a good example of the small step up needed from the marathon distance. Remember anything longer than a marathon is classed an ultra. The 6 inch is 46k (assuming you don’t get lost, which I have on a number of occasions!), so for that extra 4k you get to shoot down Sheila in Purchasing as you’ve ran an ultra-marathon and ,as everybody knows , so much harder than the silly marathon…

So lookout Sheila,  we’re coming for you ?

6 Inch Trail
6 Inch Trail Ultra, only 4k’s more than a marathon but to the untrained eye a whole different animal, an Ultra !!