Last weekend I found myself with time on my hands and infront of a TV, a very rare occurrence. I took away some great running lessons from that lazy time. It took a while to master the two remote controls and the settings on the devices (massive flatscreen TV and Sky+ box), but I eventually got it all working. Out of the 100s of channels available there was only one that interested me; the BBCs coverage of the Great North City Games.
Wow! What a great event, bringing sport to the people by holding the events on the quayside of Newcastle and Gateshead. I loved the coverage, especially as several of my heroes (Denise Lewis, Paula Radcliffe and Steve Cram) were among the presenters. For many of the competitors it was their last event of the season and they were enjoying a last outing without the usual pressure; they were enjoying themselves and that came through in the interviews, as did their love of the sport.
Some of the events were a little unusual, the 150 metre sprint, a 500 metre race and the mile along the street rather than on the track. This presented some difficulties to the runners. In the women’s 500 metre event the runner in a strong lead tired dramatically just after 400 metres and it was like she was running through treacle as the rest of the field caught her up. Presumably she had run too close to her 400 metre pace and had little left for the last 100 metres. Some of the mile runners found judging pace difficult without the usual markers they would see on a track. The winner in the men’s race judged his pace perfectly. I was not surprised to learn that he had been out on the course several times before the event to identify key places on the course.
I took away two big lessons from my TV sessions. One, top athletes have an off-season when they rest. Unfortunately for road and trail runners it is possible to find a race every weekend, and sometimes mid- week ones, throughout the year. Some people run too much. This impacts their performance and can lead to injury, burn-out and possibly a loss of love for the sport. I cannot hope to match Kilian Jornet’s running achievements, but I can make my racing schedule similar to his and have suffiecient rest periods. Take a look at his race calendars for the last few years.
Two: I learnt that some people do not do well when something changes (e.g. The distance or the terrain) so getting used to variety will serve you well. If you always race at 10am what happens when a race starts at 1pm? I got caught out by this once at the Shakespeare Marathon when it started at 1 pm. I think it has now reverted to a more normal time. If you judge race pace by the mile markers what will happen in a race where there aren’t any or the markers are every kilometre?
Consistency in training is good, but it pays to mix it up a bit. Variety is the spice of life and it will help when life delivers a curve ball.