Secret to running a PB (PR) really is simple.

I was looking back in my Excel spreadsheet training journal recently at my PB’s (PR’s for our American cousins. (You need a manual record just in case Strava  ( http://www.strava.com ) gets taken out by North Korea, that funny looking leader of theirs doesn’t look like a runner, just saying.) All my PB’s have come at the end of a high mileage training week(s) and on all occasions I have ran with runners who I had no right running with, truth be told. In most cases I have been dropped but not before I was deposited into a situation where a PB became a reality. If I had ran to a set pace I would have not ran as fast. So it seems we all have the ability to run faster than we think we can but we rarely put this theory to the test as we are worried about ‘blowing up’ or failure.

For my 10k PB of 34:18 I raced this new young runner I had not seen before as I thought initially he was running the 5k option. When the 5k runners turned we both moved to the 10k course. As it turns out this young runner became a good friend of mine who I train with weekly. Zac has turned into a very accomplished runner who is currently training with Raf and targeting a sub 2:30 marathon. Needless to say I don’t race in the same league as  Zac anymore and this was brought home to me recently at the Fremantle half where I placed third in the 10k and ran with Zac for the first 3k , unfortunately Zac was running the half and then dropped me on the way to a 72 minute time and the victory. I couldn’t even keep up for 4k. I digress of course, the first time I met Zac I decided to try and run with him for as long as possible as he was running quicker than my PB pace. Any thought of a predetermined race pace went out the window and I just ran to see how long I could keep up with this new face on the Perth running scene. As it turned out Zac was also outside his comfort zone and I managed to sneak home for the win and a new PB. I feel without my ‘gun-ho’ approach I would have achieved neither.

Racing with Zac at the Darlington half this year. This was as close as I got as he grabbed a podium and I was a few minutes behind him. (He is number 11912 to my right)

It is a similar story for my 5k PB. This time Chris O’Neil turned up at my local park run (a very accomplished ultra runner and marathon runner with a marathon PB of 2:25 ) and I was again at the end of a long training week with double-up days all the previous 5 days. I wasn’t expecting much truth be told but thought I’d try and keep Chris honest for at least the first kilometre, it was my local park run after all. So off I went like a scolded cat running 800m pace from the start. I did manage to get to the first kilometre marker before Chris but after that he was off and I managed to maintain a pace quick enough to run a 16:40 which was a time that myself and Dan ‘the man with a plan’ Macey had often talked about achieving. I had been close on many occasions but this time I had given myself the extra few seconds I needed by running the first kilometre at suicide pace and then hanging on.

Rottnest Marathon Start line. Chris is number 287 and he won by a margin of over 10 minutes if my memory serves me right.

My half marathon PB was achieved in similar circumstances when I again decided to try and run with the lead group for a long as possible as see where it took me. It actually took me to the lead at 18k feeling great and I started to think about a winners speech, ( do I thank all my extended family first and  then the Marathon Club for hosting the event, marshalls, God, the list soon became quite large ? ) The Fremantle Half is quite a large event and for some reason this year a lot of quality runners had decided to run elsewhere. I was left leading Gerry Hill and Tom Bakowski, two runners outside my pay grade but both had not been running at the top of their game and I dared to dream, briefly. At 19k they both decided to stop playing with me, like a cat plays with a mouse, and both put on the afterburners consigning me to third place but a massive PB of 75 minutes dead. Yep, that’s right, a rookie error finishing dead on 1hour 15 minutes. One step quicker and I would have been a 1:14;xx half runner, albeit the xx would have been 59 seconds, not important it’s all about the minutes when it comes to half PB’s. As with the other two PB’s this one came at the end of a massive training week and I remember sitting in the car before the event actually contemplating pulling out as I was so fatigued from the weeks training and I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

So to sum up this little gem of a post it seems if you really want to grab a PB you need to run more and then on race day hook up with someone you know is quicker, than your current PB, and hang on for dear life. Don’t worry about the time as they’ll take care of it, all you need to do is hang on for as long as you can and they will sling-shot you to a PB, simple really.  Perfectly summed up by the late, great Steve Prefontaine below.

 

A Steve Prefontaine classic quote.

Note: I must stress this can also work with longer distances like the marathon but a certain amount of self restraint needs to be shown. I wouldn’t recommend slotting in behind the lead Kenyan at a marathon hoping to take the ‘gung-ho, nothing ventured, nothing gained ‘ approach because unfortunately this will end in failure and normally pretty quickly.  By all means find someone who normally runs a few minutes quicker but running a marathon at suicide pace normally results in just that. Young Mr. Prefontaine never ran a marathon and was a specialist 5k runner, for 5k you can run at suicide pace and sometimes survive, for a marathon there is no finishing if you start at 5k pace. No one ever said at the end of a marathon ‘that was easy, I shaved off 30 minutes off my PB with no training’, sorry but that’s running for you……

 

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. Andy Baldwin | 3rd Jan 18

    I reckon you’re gunning for a PB/PR for brilliant posts this year, BK! Thanks for the shares and words of experience (you might claim “wisdom” when you’re in the mood)…

    • bigkevmatthews@gmail.com | 4th Jan 18

      Thanks Andy. You know me one thing I love as much as running is talking about running.

  2. Simon Humm | 9th Jan 18

    Big Kev, I read your blogs with great interest – you have a great way with words and as a fellow runner, albeit a much slower one, the stories are always entertaining. One common theme though seems to be your tendency to go out fast and then try to hang on. Is this a strategy you employ rather than running negative splits or do you just get carried away on the day. Alternatively you might just like the pain 🙂 Cheers – Simon.

    • bigkevmatthews@gmail.com | 9th Jan 18

      G’day Simon, I agree with your overview of my racing strategy, I’m always one for the ‘suicide pace’ early and then hang on for dear life in the pain box in the later stages. One exception would be my marathon performances where , as I get older (and slower?), I have certainly learned to pace them better. As I said in the post ‘suicide pace’ early in a marathon will never end well. I will make more of an effort this year and try and pace my races better but historically I’ve always just set off as fast as I can and then prepared for the inevitable time in the pain box towards the end. Let’s face it at the end of a race you’ll be in a world of pain anyway, everybody is even the pro’s, it’s just a case of how much pain you are willing to endure. Also it would be nice to beat Mark Lee just once as I’ve lost count of the number of races I’ve finished one place behind him. Is than a valid excuse ? Probably not…

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