Well, not good news with today's race. I think I'm officially in a slump. I should have run at least 36:00 today but all I could manage was 38:20. Actually feel a little sick over it. Not because I really care about times but I'm big on doing what I trained for. You know I have been training to run a PB here and my training partner Vince Bosco did what he was capable of today, 34:35, so I'm left wondering what went wrong?! The first 5K was OK but the last not so much. Could be my ankles? I also did have a strange feeling in my right quad from about the 6th K and a stitch at the 9th but I just don't know. I'd like to take the easy way out and say I'm just getting old but while it's true it is not the reason for this slump (I ran a faster 10K in my half from 10K to 20 a few weeks ago).
Anyway too early to panic yet I still have a few more races coming up where I could very well turn this around but for now there is nothing for it than to get back to training.
Yes, it pays to be sanguine about these things and I know my coach, Sean William, Vince, Ewen and most of you guys will encourage me to just get back to it. Just allow me a little self pity and a bottle of wine or two and I'll hit it again!
All the best to you all in your upcoming training and racing. Leave you with one of my favorite running quotes. It seems relevant today.
"Ultimate lows are followed by ultimate highs."
An old Zen story begins with the apprentice swordsman asking the master:
“How long would it take me to become great under you?” he asks. “10 years,” the master swordsman replies. “I don’t have that long,” says the student. “I want to be good soon. What if I worked very hard and dedicated myself completely to the task?”“Ok, 30 years,” he says back. “But that’s even longer,” the student says with some perplexity. “I am telling you I am in a hurry.”And so the master replies, “Precisely, students in a hurry end up taking even longer to learn what is right in front of them.”
The lesson that the master is trying to impart to the apprentice is an important one. So important that I’m confident in saying if you fail to understand it, you’ll fail to really get anywhere in running or life! I began running semi seriously about the same time my first son was born. The first year of running was a stop, start affair where I’d run for a few days and then have a few off. This process was somewhat analogous to the learning to walk pattern that my son was going through at around the same time. Casey would easily pull himself to his feet, walk around the furniture for a couple of days looking like he was just about ready for his first steps unaided, and then just as suddenly flop down. For a couple of weeks he’d be on all fours happily going back to the crawl that he had become quite proficient at. I wondered if he would he ever learn to walk but I failed to wonder the same about my running and whether I would ever gain any continuity.
Casey of course did learn to walk without the help of our sofa and I, by the time he did, was running a consistent pattern of 5 days a week. The point here is that everything has its time and everything arrives in its good time and rushing it won’t help. In fact, it’ll do more harm than good. Show me an injured or burned-out runner and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t understand much less practice the principal of “less is more.” I can link just about all my running injuries to the times I push things too far by going too fast or running too far in training before I was physically ready to.
What I’ve learned from the set backs I’ve had is to be hyperaware of the risks you face when trying to hurry your progress. The choice comes down to this: Do you want to be running this time in another ten years having reached your potential or do you want to be sidelined with a string of frustrating injuries and never know just how far or fast you could have gone?
We, especially those of us raised in the West in the last half of this century find it hard thinking in the long term. While instinctively we know better, the consumer culture has masted this reality. Quick easy payoffs are encouraged by society and the media. Youth culture rules. The impulsiveness, the need for immediate gratification that would have at one time been reigned in by a mature elder is let run amok, even to the point that it is held up as an ideal by those that surreptitiously want to get in the young’s pockets. While businesses in Japan are not adverse to fleecing their youth of money by promoting the quick fix, their practice when it comes to traditional arts and sports that they value, show they more than understand the path to mastery is a long one.
Many of the elite Japanese female marathoners will start the 1st year of a 4 year build up cycle hiking in the mountains with weighted packs. They do no running of any consequence at all that first year. This long term view of training prepares them for running 200 km weeks in their 4th year. And it is this ability to handle high mileage, without breaking down, that propelled them to the top of the world rankings in the marathon.
When my boys were still toddlers I used to run every Sunday in the early morning at a local 3Km loop around a pond. There I’d always see this one elite looking woman running loops and lapping me at will. After my morning session I’d go home for a shower and some breakfast and after doing some shopping take my kids back to the pond for some kite flying or whatever. More often than not I’d see this slip of a woman still running loops! You can be sure that she paid her dues and she was not running such high mileage without the proper build up. At one time I thought if I just copied such people I’d get better but instead in the first 5 years this approach had me hobbled by injuries. Trying to rush things was, is and always will be, a fool’s errand. Below is an part of a blog entry from October 2010, a year that I was more injured than not.
Waiting in the clinic for an echo scan. Since coming back from Oz just haven't been able to run without pain. Actually that's not all together true, I have had a couple of near pain free runs but the fact that these almost make me cry with happiness points to how rare they are. Anyway, put it this way, I've had more comments on my blog recently then good runs. While I'm confident I will be OK sooner rather than later the healing is taking its good time. I should make a confession, lest someone else follows my lead and get injured themselves. I'm pretty sure this all stems from my 5K and 10K races so close to my last full marathon. As much as I'd like to believe I am, I'm not special and can’t get away with going against all common sense. After my next full I'm going to give myself a good long break before building up to racing again. Might even still be PRing in my fifties if I act with a little more prudence. One more piece of unsolicited advice. Basically don't believe what people say, just watch what they do and how they spend their time. As for running if they are injured more than they aren't, then they are usually doing something wrong and that is usually pushing things to get things done before their time.
I started running in earnest at around 42, in the Master's age group, I figured I didn’t have much time to improve before I’d start my decline due to aging but that was exactly the wrong approach. Luckily, before doing myself too much damage I read about the likes of John Keston and accepted the reality of a slow but sure progression over time.
John Keston, the holder of a world record at 70 years old, began running at 55. It was only after running at lesser distances and building his base from 20 miles a week to 60 miles within a 5 year period that he thought he would be ready for the marathon. Contrast this with most older runners who take up the sport later in life for health reasons and 6 months later are running their first marathon. The pattern goes: They injure themselves training on the 2nd or 3rd attempt at the marathon distance and give up running before they really get started. Keston ended up breaking 3 hours for the marathon at age 70 and continued to run multiple successful marathons through his 70s. We should see people like Keston as poster-boys for a life well lived. Anyone who is able to reach their potential with intelligence, patience and good humor has, in my humble option, “lived well”.
Hope you're all well. Things are fine here. Slowly getting back to some decent mileage. Have already done a couple of marathon pace tempo runs and on my second week of weights and strength training. I''m definitely feeling stronger.
In the next few posts here I'll go into the specifics of this training but in the meantime I wanted to share this video I came across with you. I plan to start such exercises, though at a little less intensity, in the summer months here.
Enjoy this video and try incorporating a few of these exercises and drills yourself. Come the racing season I reckon we'll be hitting new highs.
Message to Mark's wife. When Mark get's better I recommend he go and see "Coach" Rick Hoffman.
Graham Green (50) 2:31:5.. at this Years London Marathon. Poster boy for Strength.
Below, as I mentioned in the video, an extract from Gordon Pirie's book "Running Fast and Injury Free." A race is an all-out effort over a short period of minutes or seconds. The aim of weight training
for runners is to simulate as closely as possible the movements used in running their special
event, and hence the demands which racing makes on the body. In this way, the body's strength
can be developed, with an emphasis on ensuring that the body is balanced in strength, and not
lopsided with one side stronger than the other, as commonly occurs because most people are
either right- or left-handed. A runner should be equally strong in both sides of the body - left
and right - and have balanced strength between the front and back of the body.
Many athletes I treat for injuries are stronger on one side of the body than the other, and it is my
belief that injuries are often caused by this imbalance. The weaker side is pushed or pulled by
the stronger side until it gives out. The most common injury of this kind is of the hamstrings,
resulting from unbalanced back strength. Weights used in training should therefore demand
equal efforts from both sides of the body, and to achieve this I have found dumb-bells very
useful. Many of the runners who decry the positive effects of weight training have gained their
superior strength with the assistance of a good Doctor or Chemist. Others - like Sebastian Coe
and Steve Scott - are open about the significant role that weight training has played in their
With dumb-bell exercises, you should try to use heavier and heavier weights up to as much as
one-third or even one-half of your body weight. This is very difficult. If you are able to easily
handle as many as three sets of ten repetitions of a particular weight, then the weight is too light.
If you cannot do at least six repetitions, the weight is too heavy. The same rule applies to
weights requiring a bar-bell. You should aim to work to at least two-thirds or more of your
body weight with bar-bells. The ultimate test is to be able to lift the equivalent of your own body
weight over your head. When you can do this, you will be strong enough for running events.
Top field event performers and sprinters can lift weights up to the level of the very best
weightlifters. Valery Borzov, 1972 Olympic 100- and 200-metre Champion, was fantastically
strong. World record holder Jarmila Kratochvilova became so powerful that her femininity was
drawn into question (actually, her fantastic ability was the result of almost 20 years of hard
I was first introduced to weight training in 1952 by John Disley, who handed me a bar with 15
pounds of weight on it. I was puny (though already British running champion and record holder
at this time). The 15 pounds of weight was almost impossible for me to push over my head. My
arms and upper body protested violently against the exercise, and after one session with this
“massive” weight my muscles were dead. By the next day, however, I began to feel the positive
effects of my efforts, with strength seemingly beginning to flow through my body. In no time at
all, I felt my three-hour runs going better. I couldn't afford to buy my own weights or go to a
gym, so I found a log of wood and started my weight training at home in the garden, with
builder's lead nailed to the ends of the log. I got stronger and stronger and, suddenly, I was
stunning people with my sprint finishes, as well as pounding many of my competitors out of sight
before the sprint even came round.
In 1953, a generous gentleman from Surrey (whose name I have, regrettably, forgotten) gave
me a set of weights after seeing a picture of my training “log” in the newspapers. I did weights in
our back garden facing the kitchen window. My mother often pulled faces through the window as I did the repetitions, grunting and gasping, and I had to beg her not to break my
concentration while I was going at it like hell, because it made me laugh! Al Murray, the famous
weight lifter, gave me solid advice on what and how to do weights. I went at the weights very
hard in 1954, and so started the season in fabulous form. I set a world record for a grass-track
mile (4:05.2), then suffered a broken bone in my foot from an accident and missed the rest of
From those early days on, weight training has been a part of my preparation for races, and that
of the athletes I train, although I have on occasion been “kind” to many of my trainees in New
Zealand, allowing them to get away with only hard running. I will not make that mistake again.
From now on, it's weights and running or nothing.
The most astounding thing about weight-trained athletes is that they often don't look the part. It
is possible to get very strong without looking like Mr Universe or Rambo. Some very thin-
looking individuals can be extremely strong, despite their skinny muscles and frames. Weight
training does not go hand-in-hand with muscle bulge, unless you either munch a lot of steroids,
or do a lot of slow, easy pumping. When we do maniac, high speed, all-out maximum weights,
we get very fast and strong without putting on any bulk at all (you will not begin to bulge all over
the place, girls). Most truly super-fit people don't look the part; fitness is a hidden quality. But
when they “operate”, however, their performances reveal those “hidden” talents. The opposite
of this case is The Incredible Hulk, who can't even jog across a room to visit his girlfriend
without needing a rest when he arrives.
Before getting onto the specifics of an effective weight-training protocol, here are some general
guidelines about fitting weights into your overall programme:
How often should one do weight-training?
Every second or third day is about right, along with a full running programme (curtail your
weights several days before a race). Your weight training should also continue through the
height of the racing season. Do not give away all the good training you have done just when you
need the greatest amount of strength.
How hard should the weight-training be?
There are two types of weight sessions: (1) a full-out session in which you do all and every
exercise as hard as you can; and (2) an easier session with half-dosages of fewer exercises. It is
not uncommon for a tired runner to feel much fitter after a moderate session with the weights.
These sessions seem to flush out your muscles. On the other hand, the full-out, go-for-it,
maximum sessions tend to put the body down a bit, and numb it for a while; so those sessions
should never be attempted near to a race day (say within six days). The body does cope easily
with easy routines, however, and I sometimes even find that a few exercises with strong weights
before a three-hour running session can bring fantastic strength into the running, making it feel
I have always found my best running fitness - when I was able to set world records and finish
races in stunning fashion - to be absolutely tied in with my best form with the weights. The
stronger I was at grappling with the weights (combined with a lot of hard running), the better I
was on race day. It is interesting to note that the New Zealand veteran Derek Turnball, who
runs world records in his age group, does weight training nearly every day in the course of his
job. He will deny this because he never touches a bar-bell, but he is doing hard physical work
all day long on his farm, and is as strong as a horse. He also does his running at an elevated
altitude in the mountains around his farm. Derek has three major strength factors at work in his
daily life: he goes for long runs; he runs up and down mountain paths; and he does
weight-training as a way of life.
If you are an average sedentary person, you are likely to be as weak as a chicken, the very
opposite of Derek Turnball. If this is the case, go to a specialist in weight lifting and have him
test you for back, leg and arm strength. You will be shocked by your weakness. Then do
weights for a month and go back to be re-tested; this time you will be astounded by your
improved strength. Your running will become easier, and you will begin to go faster and faster.
I have a chuckle every time I go into a health club. There are runners and tri-athletes playing
silly games with puny weights, instead of getting “stuck in” and doing something that would be
really beneficial for them. We go into the gym and smash away for 45 minutes to an hour,
breathing like rhinoceroses, and then get out. The average inhabitants of the modern weight
room fiddle about looking at themselves in the mirror, and never seem to get going. They are
there for hours, sitting on their hands admiring their expensive gear and big muscles in the
One example of this was Richard Okesene, who was New Zealand Javelin Champion. Richard
had a fantastic body, at least that's what the girls told me, and would play around with huge
weights - in fact, some enormous weights, in the 300- to 500-pound range. But his capabilities
as an athlete were puny, compared with his apparently tremendous strength. His heart and
circulation were so bad that he couldn't last out a dozen reps in a light-weight exercise session.
His endurance was nil. By the time he had run up the 30 metres to throw the javelin, he was
exhausted. After only three months of our style of weight training, plus some hard running, his
best throw in the javelin went from 60 metres to 76 metres. If Richard continued in this style of
training, I am sure he would be able to throw 100 metres. Athletes like Richard are to be found
everywhere, but like the dinosaurs with their big bodies and little hearts, they are bound for
Before I began weight training, I was a long distance and cross country runner who could grind
it out with anyone, but a constant loser in a sprint. A diet of hard weights, however, turned me
into a complete competitor, one who could pour on the pace and still sprint madly at the finish. A great book if your interested it is free to download online. If further evidence is needed we can't forget Yoshihisa Hosaka who at 59 ran 2 hours and 34 mins for the Marathon. Although I don't know exactly what his day work consists of, or if he indeed does lift but you can tell by looking at him: He is strong!!