Nick Curd writes...
For the amateur runner, running is a very goal orientated sport. It starts off small, “I want to get fit and run 5k,” gets bigger “I want to run a 10k”, then even larger “I want to run a half marathon”. As well as distance there is the wanting to beat your previous best time over a distance or a course a lot of that is individualistic in nature. Tewkesbury Running Club this year has a club goal to get as many of its members partaking in Tewkesbury Half Marathon as are willing a current rough estimate places this around 40 members which would far exceed any race, I have partaken in. To assist with the club applied to England Athletics for coaching assistance and succeeded in being granted three sessions with Kerry Newell.
This is the first of a series of blog-type posts by myself to explain what Kerry’s sessions entailed, what I learned, how I am incorporating into my own training and overall club experience. A little about myself for those who do not know me, I started running in April of last year, joined the club mid-June and ran my first and only half marathon at the end of October at Stroud in a time 1:54:40. Cards on the table my goal in 2020 is to run a half in under 1:45:00. Which may or may not be accomplished at Tewkesbury. To do that I need to train, and train better than I did for Stroud that is where Kerry’s sessions come in and the incorporation of those with the club and personal runs.
A club session with Kerry is broken down into four parts a warm-up with drills, the main running session, a cool-down with stretches and finally a classroom session. One of the great things about these sessions is running with other club runners with familiar faces and people you only see once every so often and being able to chat everyone is working toward the same goal and because of the relatively short distance, we can converse in walking parts, get to know each other better and offer encouragement which we rarely get to do.
I will admit to until now as being a poor runner regarding warm-ups. I rock up to a race or parkrun usually with all my kit on, stand around, chat if there is anyone I know, pump out the run, walk back to the car and go home. Anyone else recognise that behaviour? The thinking goes I want to keep all my energy for the main run so why waste it on a warm-up. First off there is the pace you do not warm-up is not your full race pace which seems obvious, reality is you are just trying to get your heart pumping oxygenated blood around your body. For me the key bit of information was when a warm-up should finish which is roughly 8 minutes before you start allowing your heart rate to slow back down having delivered that freshly oxygenated blood throughout your body. The drills are about exaggerated leg movement in getting your body to move in a motion better for running and finally strides about getting yourself ready for race pace so when you set off you're ready to go at the rate you want to throughout the race. I have not gotten the hang of strides yet looking at GPS data by 7/10 is just as quick as my 9/10 and I’m certainly setting off quicker than intended nothing much changed to my normal running. However, a warm-up with pushing tiny bit before the end before a race does appear to be working whilst I’m sustaining more speed throughout the run my average pace whilst still slower in some places is no longer dropping off considerably like it used to. Whilst pushing hard for the first kilometre to mile I no longer feel like I’m pushed too hard and feel a lot of that has to do with getting the body ready before the race. I am still a little too self-conscious to be the only person doing drills right before a run especially before a parkrun which is mad because I know when it comes to the main session how those drills are affecting my biomechanics.
In the two sessions with Kerry, we have mainly focused on speedwork the first a threshold session and the second more a sprinting affair working on sudden short sharp changes of speed. The threshold session will be familiar to anyone who has done couch to 5k or a similar training regime. Consisting of timed walk/runs consisting of a pattern 3/4/5/4/3 min runs with 2 min walk intervals doing this around a 250m loop with a mild uphill and downhill gradient. The second session was 1 min at 5k pace followed by 30 seconds of walking, after 4 runs we would have 5 min rest. We
repeated the set three times. 5k pace is a loose term and looking at my own data I only did my top 5k pace for 20 seconds then rest was much faster. I know I was not the only one.
Within this running session, TRC run leaders, coaches and Kerry keep an eye on problems with your form looking at something at everyone running, my main issue is obvious to anyone who has seen me run and rather than stand up straight I lean forward and look at the ground. Years of bad posture and being hunched over a desk coming to haunt me. The problem is whilst its easy to know what your issue is trying to correct is hard. So, after numerous times of being told to keep my head up Kerry pulled me aside and pushed my shoulders and lower back into the position it should be in, job done I can now run without any posture issues at all! Not really what it has given me is something to focus on for 4 weeks whilst running I certainly don’t catch it every time but in the end, I’m running around a loop with far better posture than I did previously.
In the following session we looked at arm movement which was something I not really considered a problem for myself. I, however, noticed an immediate difference rather than moving my arm elbows out across my chest I needed to lower them and with my elbows bent whilst moving them backward bring my hands just my body before moving them forward. Combined with earlier drills I noticed my stride being more impactful when striking the ground and my feet lifting higher off ground. This is probably what combined to make my pace far quicker than I intended despite putting possibly a little more effort than intended.
The session ends with a quick cool down run and stretches most of which would be familiar to any runner and does not require anything particularly fancy or complex.
The session is followed by a classroom session with Kerry and the rest of the group. These are informal with information being passed back and forth every runner like a person is an individual which means we all must train and fuel differently although there are some fundamentals. I personally find it useful to hear who has similar issues to these things as myself listen and try out what they do. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.
To give some sort of comparison of the difference these sessions have made to my running I had just set a 5k PB 23:51 two weeks before the first session and on the same course done 24:07 just a few days before. Incorporating a brief a few minutes warm-up with a burst towards the end and focusing a bit more on posture and my last two 5k times were 22:34, 22:33 almost 80 seconds taken off in the space of weeks. I also set a new 5-mile PB by roughly 3 minutes, but the comparison is less solid as it was set in November. Still a hugely successful first month to half marathon training with 3 months to go and incorporating longer and longer runs into my training program. It will be interesting to see what the next session entails and what differences I notice to my overall progress within that time.