Posts Tagged ‘depth’

A taster for some possible future musings.

It’s a great topic.

People talk about the general lack of depth in UK running when they often mean the lack of numbers at the sharp end of elite.

Mo is obviously way out in front, but he is an anomaly. Even on a global scale, the guy is soundly thrashing world class Kenyans, Ethiopians, Eritreans you name it. But behind him there is a significant gulf. I took my girls to watch the UK Trials for World Champs over the summer (the wife had to work on her thesis and I want the girls to experience live athletics wherever possible. Once they start loving it, they will want to see more it, and oh well, if I have to tag along while they go to the events, then that’s a chore I can bear :-)). Anyway, watching Mo win the men’s 5k was like watching a grown up racing against Under 15’s. It was a telling indication that, whilst we may have one or two guys who can run sub 13:30, there aren’t many, and even those couple are a long way behind Mo.

Onto a more marathon-specific point. I like 2:08 as line in the sand. 2:08 is a tough call. I don’t think any amount of training or performance centres will get results down past that level. Sub 2:08 requires something else. Take Japan. Did you know Japan is one of the most successful marathon running countries? (behind Kenya obviously). The depth in Japan is absolutely incredible. And they can’t break 2:08 (often) either. So let’s park that and look at 2:10 or 2:12. Or heck even 2:14. At those paces we should be rolling out dozens of guys in the UK, but we’re not. Things are improving though, after a low point somewhere in the past 10 years. We all know why the number of 2:20 club runners has dropped away of the past 20 or 30 years, I could cover it here, but it’s a post on its own really.

The thing with running a really top level marathon, is that it requires years and years and years (and years and years) of hard focussed training. It requires a special kind of discipline because, whilst you could argue that a top 10k requires all of those things too – and it does, or even a top miler, it does again, but with one difference. With a mile or a 10k, athletes get a number of chances each season to have a go. Marathons are less forgiving. You can really pour your energy and focus into probably 2 marathons in a year. Often something will have prevented perfect preparation for one of those, so that usually leaves one crack at a marathon per year. If it goes badly, and it often does (at least in terms of what an elite might be targeting pre-race) you have to go away, regroup and refocus for another 12 months. A bad 10k, means, look in the race diary, find another one in 6-10 weeks’ time and go again (I’m oversimplifying). Same with miling during track season. In the pre-season, athletes and their coaches will pick probably about half a dozen track races over the year, possibly more if you include over and under distance races, i.e. milers running 800’s and 3k’s, and 5k guys (like Mo) running 1500’s, etc. With the marathon you look at the calendar, line up two, and hope like hell things click on one of those two days.

 When it doesn’t: drawing board. But when it does, oh the sweet nectar of marathon satisfaction. Nothing compares.

But the very nature of the “train and hope” required by the marathon (elites have attested to this too) means that for a perceived “depth” to become apparent over the marathon distance, we really do need a lot of top level runners filtering through and targetting 2:12 or better. Then, even with the paring that went on earlier, sufficient numbers will still come through as “successful attempts” and the top level depth will finally start to grow. It takes time, and dedication. Check back in 5 years.


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