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Archive for January, 2013

2012, that’s a wrap

Getting the numbers out the way first:

In 2012 I ran 2712 miles.

This works out at a weekly average of a fraction over 52 miles (84km).

(For comparison in 2011 I managed 3183 miles for an average of 61 mpw).

The lower mileage this year was not a conscious decision, but one that was made vaguely early on and stored in the back of my mind.

 

Running is not a linear progression consisting of more miles and faster times year on year. It is more like a series of efforts interspersed with rests. This applies on a micro level, day by day, and scales up nicely to apply to week on week, month on month and year on year.

 

After 2011, which had been a big jump from 2010 (47 to 61 mpw), I felt consolidation was needed in 2013, rather than trying to continue to forge ahead. I decided to focus on improving the quality of the mileage rather than pushing out big numbers for the sake of a nicely shaped graph. In a sense I guess you could say 2012 was a recovery year after 2011.

 

Did I achieve this? I feel like I did and I am satisfied with the year. In terms of cold, hard, reportable facts I don’t have a glut of personal bests to show for 2012.

 

The synchronization between fitness and races wasn’t quite aligned this year for whatever reason, and I had periods of top fitness with no race results to show for it. Conversely I had lots of races where I arrived, again, for a variety of reasons in less than ideal shape. Some would say that is how running goes. And they’d be right. This is one of the many unique aspects that make our sport great. Getting yourself into shape at the right time is a combination of science, art, and experience. I intend to work on that in 2013. An easy first step would be to schedule in more frequent racing, which I plan on doing.

 

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Races

I recorded two Personal Bests in 2012.

Both PBs were in the first quarter of the year. The first was the Droitwich Half Marathon, where I had no intention of chasing a time but was aiming for a controlled hard effort. Funny how these things work out. Anyway I felt great and managed to take 10 seconds off my PB with a 77:26.

 

The second PB came in April where, in unseasonable conditions (cold and rainy); I ran 4hr14 at the Two Oceans Ultramarathon (56km) in Cape Town. I was targeting a silver medal (given to all finishers under 4 hours) and was on course for the first third of the race. I went through halfway in 1hr56 which may sound right for a 4hr00 target but the second half of the race is incredibly hilly and more time is needed in the bag before hitting the big climbs. Still, I’m pleased with the 4hr14 which takes 3 minutes off my time from 2011.

 

That was it as far as personal bests went in 2012. The best times I achieved in each race distance for the year are below.

 

2012 Best times:-

Distance

Time

Date

Race

Notes

1500m

4:35

30 May

BMC 1500m

 

3000m

9:43

11 July

Birmingham Uni Open

 

5km

16:41

15 September

Cannon Hill parkrun

 

10km

36:34

9 September

Lichfield 10k

Total Rubbish! I ran 35 minutes a number of times in solo time trials. But races are what count.

13.1 miles

1:17:26

4 March

Droitwich Half Marathon

PB by 10 seconds

20 miles

2:09:10

18 March

Ashby 20 Mile Road Race

Not a race effort. Trying to practice target marathon pace.

56km

4:14:26

7 April

Two Oceans Ultramarathon

PB by 3 minutes

Non Standard Distances

3 miles

16:39

12 May

National Masters Road Relays

 

5.1km

16:54

13 October

National Six Stage Road Relays

 

6 miles

34:52

31 July

Roon the Watter, Scotland

Won the race 🙂

         

 

The most surprising result was the half because, as mentioned above, I hadn’t gone in with the intention of racing.

 

The best race performance was probably the National Six Stage. 16:54 for 5.1k is pretty much as fast as it gets for me and was one of the few occasions this year when my fitness aligned with a race.

 

Thanks to everyone who was around to support (and share) the racing and training experiences. Many miles, many hours logged on the road, track and mud, and much nonsense talked.

 

As always, a special mention to my incredible better half, Bec, and our two girls who support me 100%.

 

Ok. With that, 2012 is out of the way. Enjoy all 2013 brings.

 

Keep running dudes.

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 There has been a niggling feeling lurking around the murky depths of the running community for the past couple of months (possibly years). The whispering that goes on behind closed marathon doors. People only want to watch fast races and see fast times, the whisperers are saying. The perception that time is king and the actual racing is secondary. 

Are we so obsessed with time we cannot enjoy a race unless it is fast? No. This opinion undermines the intelligence of running fans. Everyone wants to see an exciting race. And what is more exciting than two or more people burying themselves late in a race in an attempt to get rid of their competitors? Nothing.

But running fast is also exciting. I don’t think fast running deserves the bad rap it seems to be getting from the learned running media.ryan hall finishing houston half

It is not, as many people would seem to have us believe, an on-or-off situation. Actually you can have your cake and eat it. If you love the racing you don’t have to hate the time. And if you love world record attempts you don’t have to hate racing. When you think about it, that is a ridiculous proposal anyway. But that is the choice we are told we are making.

Well I reject that choice. Distance fans are smart enough to appreciate a race and a course for what it is. No-one would say an elite marathoner who wins a race has run badly in that race because he was five or ten minutes slower than his Personal Best. Those guys run races to win. Fast times are secondary. In the choice between a fast time trial and a tough attritional battle between gladiators, as a spectator it is a no brainer. And for the competitors it is win first, time second. If you can win in a fast time, well that’s just dandy. But just as the two concepts aren’t mutually exclusive, they aren’t joined at the hip either.

What needs to be remembered is that writing off time as being pointless is just as foolish as saying it is all that matters. Sure you want a close race, but it has to be reasonably fast, by default. What does reasonably fast mean? That is the question. Not because we want it fast, but because if it is not reasonably fast you will have dozens of contenders for the win. We might not care as spectators but you can be sure the elite runners in the field will care. The top half dozen runners don’t want a bunch of guys they don’t know hanging around the lead pack waiting to show off their unheralded kicks. Fact is it has to be some form of fast. Fast doesn’t relate to an absolute pace. Fast in Berlin might be 2:03, but fast in New York might be 2:05, and fast in Honolulu might be 2:11. Fast in Mumbai might be 2:15. In road racing terms, speed is a relative thing.

In cross country, pace is completely arbitrary. Yet there again you know the pace is “fast”. You know this because top quality runners are being burned off left and right. Guys who have run 27 minutes for 10k on the track, which is fast by anyone’s definition, are barely in shot as the camera follows the lead pack. So you know it’s quick. More than that it doesn’t matter. It is all about the race.

 

sprint finish Pure racing taken to the extreme is just as bad as solo time trialling. In more 1500m and mile races than I care to remember, I have seen the group go out at a pace barely above crawling. They creep around for 3 laps and then blast the last lap. There are plenty of people in contention but I wouldn’t call it exciting. I don’t want to watch a bunch of 1500 guys trying to decide who the quickest 400 guy is. An honest hard pace for 3 laps and THEN a kick. That’s when the final lap split counts. Who has the quickest 400 once when your legs are full of lactic and your lungs are burning and you can taste blood in your mouth. That’s compelling racing and has both a time and a race element.

Let’s summarise if possible.

Two competitors repeatedly attacking each other over the final miles of a race IS incredibly exciting.

Mass sprint finishes CAN be exciting.

Solo races against the clock CAN be exciting.

I don’t see the need to write off races based on a pre-conception of “how races like this go”.

There is one rule that applies across the board. Racing must come first. But really this is the default position anyway. When Haile Gebrselassie was chasing marathon world records in time-trial fashion a few years ago, he went out hard with the clock and pacemakers as predetermined company. However when he hadn’t shaken off a competitor or a couple of competitors by the 20 mile mark he made that his priority. Win first, time second.  And he would state it afterwards. “once I saw I hadn’t shaken off x or y, I knew I had to forget about the world record and go for the win”. That’s not a direct quote but it is generally words to that effect. All professional athletes have this understanding.

I can say that with certainty even though I am far from a professional athlete myself. It is clear that winning trumps a fast time, every time. Moses Mosop ran 2:03:06 in Boston last year, second to Geoffrey Mutai in 2:03:02. Geoffrey took the bulk of the limelight but Mosop ran an incredibly fast time. If you have offered Mosop the win but said it would be in 2:04:06, a minute slower than he ran, what do you think his response would be? I know what I think. Winning is the thing. Bill Rodgers won Boston four times and New York four times. An amazing marathoner. A hero. Probably a lot of hard-core marathon fans know the times Bill ran, but outside of them, people tend to remember the winning. Grete Waitz, who held the world record for a while in the marathon, is remembered primarily for one outstanding achievement: Grete won the New York Marathon NINE times. Nine times! That achievement surpasses any of the quick times she managed, and she was quick.

 

 Road cycling teaches us this lesson in unequivocal terms.  One-day classics or individual stage wins in a three-week grand tour. It’s the winning that matters. When Mark Cavendish wins a sprint finish no-one cares about the time. It has no meaning. A great post which goes into far more depth on this, and on the odd occasion where people do pay attention to times in road cycling, can be found here, on the incomparable inrng website. Long breakaways or bunch sprints, the underlying principle remains: it’s the racing not the time.

However, while this is a good lesson, it is not one that running can swallow hook, line and sinker. Because running is intrinsically different. Track racing is track racing, and cycling has track too, so for sensible comparisons we will ignore the track elements of both sports.

Marathons are a very precise distance. 26 miles and 385 yards. Because of this standardised length, times are unavoidably compared. Courses are different and this is accounted for in winning times anyway. Every running fan can appreciate that a 2:04 marathon, no matter where it takes place, is incredibly impressive. But it doesn’t have to work the other way, i.e. that a 2:12 is NOT impressive. There are always factors on the day that have a major influence on time.

Then, on certain occasions you get great racing and great times. Sammy Wanjiru in Beijing is a great example of this. Dog-eat-dog racing with scant regard for race conditions, AND a three minute improvement on the Olympic Marathon Record.  The outcome was a very special event that people identified straight away as being something we will remember for a long time.

This shows that there are certain occasions, when the planets are aligned and the stars are shining brightly, when we can be treated to great racing which we get to watch unfold at record speeds.

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