SuperSix Project

Time to review the process?

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28/04/2010 at 10:23

I've followed these threads over the last few months and noted that this year, as in previous years, only a small proportion (1 out of 6 this year) hit their target.  A few possible reasons why...

1.  Of any given group, you expect injury / illness on the day / disrupted training / not a good day at the office, so a ratio of 1 in 6 is to be expected.

2.  Runners are shoe horned into being a `sub 3' runner or `sub 5' runner with no account taken of how the training is progressing and whether goals need re-evaluatng along the way.

3.  The schedules themselves are too light on miles at the faster end and therefore the super six project either becomes (a) altered as people do different sessions set by their club coach (as on JBFAR's sub 3 thread this year) or (b) not suited to the individual.

In principle the idea is a good one, and I've read some very informative and enlightening posts.  I question whether the parameters set are the best ones for the individuals concerned.  I wonder what other peoples' view are and whether RW might look at tweaking the concept for future events.

28/04/2010 at 10:50

I agree on this BR - point 2 is the most salient one as far as I can see - I was really excited by JBFARs thread but fell away from it a little towards the end when it seemed to be less about doing the right thing for her and more about following the plan...

I'd also add I dont think they are given enough time - if they want to continue with the short term plans they should really be selecting runners who are already in decent shape rather than trying to get someone to conquer the marathon in x many weeks (when we know its a project measured in years). Otherwise you are just encouraging binge running (not so much at the pointy end but still).

28/04/2010 at 10:54

I think the Super Six should end. Its time for RW to follow the marathon challenge where
there are sub 3, 3.30, 4, 5 hour groups with dedicated forum, gurus and support.
Similar to the VLM groups on the forum but with dedicated support for your goal.

Edited: 28/04/2010 at 10:55
Tommygun2    pirate
28/04/2010 at 10:59

I agree with all of the above but......and call me cynical  but ....one of the objectives in the project is to get a load of people to sign up to the magazine subs and join the forum ie more click for the advertising side of things.

As we see each year a huge thread is created with loads of new people   

28/04/2010 at 11:03
Hope Moraghan doesn't mind me posting this but I think it is relevant and raises some interesting points.
I will also post my own thoughts too!
 
Moraghan wrote (see)
 

Wouldn't it be great if RW wouldn't perpetuate the folly of picking a marathon time and training specifically for it using an off the shelf plan.

All the ingredients are in place for the runner to train hard with a tailored regime designed / adapted by a personal coach and then to arrive at a realistic marathon goal during the training process so on the day the runner has a realistic target.  Everyone would learn more and the runner would be put in the best position to have a successful day - time wise and enjoyment wise.

Does it not strike anyone else as utterly perverse that the program forced jbfar into a sub-3hr marathon schedule off a 3:13 previous whereas the 4hr guy was asked to duck under 4 hours with a 1h 42 hm best.  So you have two runners - one with an extremely tough target and another with an extremely soft target, both shoe horned into inappropriate schedules.

This ludicrous slapping on of target numbers 16 weeks before the day with no thought to the realism of the target is such amazingly bad practice - worsened by the fact that there is no control or guidance in the weeks approaching the 16 week countdown.  Whatever happened to training to train?

The way the super six is run is a curse more than anything.  RW - next year please extend your potentially fantastic offer but do the thing sensibly this time.

The sad thing is the forum is full of runners going for completely inappropriate times because they read these RW sponsored threads and think the right way to go about it is to pick any old time and base their training paces on that aspirational (or otherwise) goal.  You have 1:30 HMers aiming to break 5 hours and 2:00 HMers going for 3:30.  Set a good example RW, for God's sake.

28/04/2010 at 11:20

I was lucky enough to be a SuperSixer last year although I didn't reach my marathon target (fell way short on the day) I had superb support from my Mentor (Liz) and Lucozade and so I have no complaints there at all and am very grateful for the opportunity I was given.

My schedule actually reduced in volume significantly from the mileage I would usually do for a marathon but increased the intensity. I signed up to 'the deal' so to speak so I stuck to the schedule. Indeed, I managed to reduce my half and 10 mile distance by a considerable margin but lacked the volume (for me) to perform on the day. So, in this regard, a generic schedule did not provide me with the specific training effect that I required to improve.

I can see the schedules working well for the less experienced runners (Andy this year had a great run) or those who lack structure to their training but for those with a challenging target or who have a bit more experience a more personalised approach may be required?

I noticed 'the other' magazine got their competition winners into the labs and performed various tests to ascertain whether their original time goal was realistic. I thought that article was extremely interesting.

The voting system this year seems to perpetuate the time target issue as there were specific categories.

Plus, poor JBFAR suffered I think the most as it really wasn't clear whose advice or schedule she actually was following. I definately think Christina would have benefited from a re-evaluation of her target or specific coaching.She clearlyhad the talent and the dedication to achieve her goal.

Edited: 28/04/2010 at 11:21
28/04/2010 at 11:27
I like the idea of a "focus group" of runners to follow, to whom those with similar aspirations can benchmark against themselves and engage through the forums.

I certainly know that many of the regulars have been really helped over the past couple of years:
Wardi, CC2, St Jason, Sue C, and now Matchstick Man & JBFAR

It seems that someone off the 3:15 thread manages to get picked as a thread representative, and it does galvanise the focus and interest.

HOWEVER

It does surprise me that there is little practical success against initial stated targets.
Like others, I believe that the practise of starting out with a hard-and-fast end target is misguided. it's a bit like selecting a marathon programme from the RW list:
"let's see now: there is a 3:00 schedule, so if I do the sessions on it then I'm sure i will be able to run a 3:00 marathon in 16 weeks".

Marathons don't work like that.

Tune-up races are a good way of gauging progress, especially if run relatively near to marathon time and can give a reliable indication of form.
Previous PBs are of limited worth if training has changed since.

I would prefer a system whereby the formal target time is only finalised 3 or 4 weeks before M day.
Prior to this, the Lucozade peeps could badge the "gladiators" in bands rather than pure target times (so JFBAR would be "3:00 to 3:15", MM would be "3:15 to 3:30" and so on. Would take away some of the obsessing about pure targets.)

Whilst I am sure that great care goes into selecting suitable individuals, I would suggest that some of the more experienced runners in the existing 3:00, 3:15 and 3:30 threads be used perhaps as the role models and elevated as good examples into "Super Sixes". This might give a better success rate particularly at the faster end, where previous experience generally yields a more realistic expectation of performance. Perhaps targetting a 7-10 minute PB (or 15-20 secs per mile improvement) for someone with a few marathons under their belt might be a more realistic ambition, and allow for the possibility of over-delivering!
28/04/2010 at 11:35

As someone from the inside of the project I'll happily add my two cents
It's an amazing experience let me tell you. The value of the prize per Super Sixer can easily be put at over £5000 when you factor in the amount of people who go towards making this project happen. The management company who look after Lucozade and all their competition winners and runners work a LOT of hours to get things done and when you start costing in the mentors (as consultants in effect), photographers, camera crew,etc it becomes obvious how massive this project is.
I think it can be likened to the Big Brother programme with the six in the middle as goldfish being looked at by the outside world. It's only when those in the "house" (for want of an analogy) step outside at the end that they realise what's been going on. I never honestly felt any pressure whilst I was training or keeping the thread up but because I failed to perform on the day due to a low level virus I have struggled with quite a severe body blow that's going to take some time to recover from mentally. Having the vest on during the race does make you a moving target tbh and a couple of guys asked me how I'd done not long after crossing the line. Having to tell them I didn't make it and put a brave face on it made me realise how enormous the project is.

The 6 threads this year have generated 36,000 unique visitors and had a record number of hits compared to last year so I'm sure from those numbers the project will continue. The project exists to increase traffic to the website which carries advertising the same as magazines exist to sell advertising space, not necessarily to sell great journalisitic articles. Yes there is/are personal relationships formed by those involved but it's a commercially driven project first and foremost. Lucozade, Garmin and Adidas are all on board as sponsors so the Super Sixers can promote their use and help sell products.

Would I recommend it to anyone thinking of doing it next year? hell yes! but be careful what you wish for as there's a high cost to be paid if things don't go right.

Edited: 28/04/2010 at 11:37
28/04/2010 at 11:42

I did wonder how they chose the times for people. With all due respect to the super sixers, JBFAR's seemed a massive task to knock half a minute off every mile in comparison to her PB, which is a fantastic time anyway. I'm positive MM's target of sub3:15 ended up being short of what he can achieve and, had things panned out better for him, he would have made mincemeat out of the 3:15.

I must confess, being fairly new to the forum (and to running seriously), I thought the sub4 chap's target time didn't really fit him when I saw he had whacked 15 minutes off it. I'm guessing it would have been more of a challenge to him if the target time had been altered when it must have become obvious, through his training, that he was going to to beat it easily. However, I didn't follow his thread so maybe I'm speaking out of turn. Please understand though, I'm certainly not trying to detract from his excellent achievement.

This thread is quite pertinent to me as I started to follow the RW marathon sub3:45 plan to see where I should be when I began training properly for a marathon. I really didn't know what sort of time I should aspire to so went out for a few runs following that plan. It became obvious, fairly quickly, that the sub 3:45 was not challenge enough and therefore am still expecting to tweek my targets for the big one and probably still will be when I hit my taper.

Do people think that a too tough a time for the Supersixers is asking for failure from the start? I'm assuming JBFAR would have known from fairly early in her training that sub3 was too much to ask in such a relatively short period of time. That's not going to help confidence and will surely add pressure to every run she did. Stress rarely helps anyone in anything.

All in my humble, inexperienced, opinion of course.

28/04/2010 at 11:48

Interesting to note that I was up against 3 others when it came to the public vote. I was surprised to be in there as the category said "sub 3h30" and yet my PB was 3h19 (still is!) and every marathon I had done to that point was 3h30 or below

Of the others:
Joddly had a PB about 2mins (?) outside 3h30 and she did London (correct me if I'm wrong Joddly) and did a PB. I believe she kept Right Said Aouita's Super Six thread going when he stopped posting and I was genuinely sad for her that she wasn't chosen as she had already shown the commitment necessary to keeping a Super Six thread going even when it wasn't hers.
Wokky was another and he did London and went under 3h30
The other lad was Chris Ford4 and his PB was 3h50 but I haven't seen or heard of him for a bit on the forums but I do notice that his time from the Coventry HM last october was 1h50min so the 3h30 target was going to be a massive stretch for him imo.

I wonder what has happened to the other people shortlisted over the past couple of years? Did they have greater success than the chosen ones or not?

28/04/2010 at 11:52
Blisters and beer wrote (see)

II thought the sub4 chap's target time didn't really fit him when I saw he had whacked 15 minutes off it. I'm guessing it would have been more of a challenge to him if the target time had been altered when it must have become obvious, through his training, that he was going to to beat it easily. However, I didn't follow his thread so maybe I'm speaking out of turn. Please understand though, I'm certainly not trying to detract from his excellent achievement.

I, quite frankly, am amazed he even toed the line with the injury upon injury he was getting in the 16 weeks of the project. He had HUGE swathes of time where he wasn't running (I think he told me he'd run twice in the last 3 weeks) and he only managed 1 x 20mile run as his longest run. I'm impressed he started and he then did a negative split in his first ever marathon! There really aren't that many people from Sunday who achieved this so soft target or not, AndyV did something quite amazing off the minimal training he did manage to bag. He ran with a knee support on one leg and strapping on another...
28/04/2010 at 11:57

Having looked at the programmes, they have 'givens' in terms of 'you should be running x times a week or 'have a pb of'.  I wonder if there could be a longer term pre-programme (6 months out?) which potential super sixers could follow (a sort of elimination pool- or indeed something a bit like the long running sub x:xx groups) the 'winners' then being selected to go onto the final 16 week programmes?

Or is this suggestion only 'shuffling deckchairs on the titanic' in that the final 16 week programme doesn't produce the results? 

28/04/2010 at 12:01
FerrousFerret wrote (see)

Having looked at the programmes, they have 'givens' in terms of 'you should be running x times a week or 'have a pb of'.  I wonder if there could be a longer term pre-programme (6 months out?) which potential super sixers could follow (a sort of elimination pool- or indeed something a bit like the long running sub x:xx groups) the 'winners' then being selected to go onto the final 16 week programmes?


FF - I think you're spot on and you've raised the same point XPS did: that the past 2 years have seen the sub 3h15 Super Sixer was one of the sub 3h15 thread regulars. RW can guarantee a certain level of commitment from them in terms of fitness and posting on a dedicated thread regularly.
28/04/2010 at 12:09
Matchstick Man wrote (see)
I, quite frankly, am amazed he even toed the line with the injury upon injury he was getting in the 16 weeks of the project. He had HUGE swathes of time where he wasn't running (I think he told me he'd run twice in the last 3 weeks) and he only managed 1 x 20mile run as his longest run. I'm impressed he started and he then did a negative split in his first ever marathon! There really aren't that many people from Sunday who achieved this so soft target or not, AndyV did something quite amazing off the minimal training he did manage to bag. He ran with a knee support on one leg and strapping on another...

Blimey That is indeed a massive undertaking and achievement. Well done AndyV! As I said, I hadn't followed his thread (it was difficult enough to keep up with yours MM, when I'd come into it so late)  and so had no experience of his preparation for the race. Apologies if my comments were taken as derogatory, they were not meant that way. It does suggest though, if he'd had a smooth run-in to the race, that target might have been miles off!
28/04/2010 at 12:39

Some good responses so far.  No one is agreeing that the project works at present then, except in terms of being a successful commercial plug for the sponsors in terms of forum visits, if not in terms of getting the runners over the line using their products.

And the one who did hit the target could have gone considerably quicker from what MM said - you could have had the sub 4 guy doing a 3:30!

Yes some longer term thought and preparation would be needed to have a higher success rate.  I wonder if anyone at RW towers will read this and take the points on board?

28/04/2010 at 12:44
Matchstick Man wrote (see

 FF - I think you're spot on and you've raised the same point XPS did: that the past 2 years have seen the sub 3h15 Super Sixer was one of the sub 3h15 thread regulars. RW can guarantee a certain level of commitment from them in terms of fitness and posting on a dedicated thread regularly.


Then you are getting into the dubious arguement about who gets chosen in the first place (regulars or new people) but I hadn't thought about the fitness aspect, which is interesting.

I wonder how many of the shortlisted or even those who entered post regularly now? I wonder if RW have stats on this? Although all six chosen this year seemed to take their thread responsibilities very seriously and did a good job of maintaining momentum.

And I do know that we now have some great new regulars on our thread because of the comp, which is clearly one of the aims of the game in the first case for RW.

28/04/2010 at 12:47
Ex-pat Scot wrote (see)
 I would prefer a system whereby the formal target time is only finalised 3 or 4 weeks before M day. Prior to this, the Lucozade peeps could badge the "gladiators" in bands rather than pure target times (so JFBAR would be "3:00 to 3:15", MM would be "3:15 to 3:30" and so on. Would take away some of the obsessing about pure targets.)

Quite right.  Call me naive but when I started following the SuperSix competition I just assumed that the different categories of runners was separated by time target bands rather than specific targets (i.e. sub-3, 3:15, etc)  and that once any particular individual was chosen to represent that band the focus on their particular goals would start from there. 

Apart from anything else, when it became apparent to me that qualification for a place was effectively part-determined by whether RW thought people were suitable for (or ripe for shoe-horning into) a particular pre-determined target, it struck me as slightly unfair to a number of people who had interesting reasons for taking part, whose goals didn't quite fit.  (Where's that Andy bloke?  Was it Andy?   )

I think I'd like to see a similar set-up with regard to categories separating the range of runners and abilities (to appeal to the wide range of RW readers / forumites that obviously exists) but to worry about goal setting once the competition winners have been chosen.  The journeys those people have will still be relevant to people following the various threads even if time goals (for example) aren't identical.

Edited: 28/04/2010 at 12:48
28/04/2010 at 12:50

Very interesting thread indeed

We are all very different in training needs, and maybe therein lies the problem

(I was asked to do this a few years ago, to get a sub five, but didnt want to give up doing multiple marathons, so declined. Ive now got my sub five but you couldnt say  that IIfollow a standardf  training programme)

Maybe the schedules do need to be more flexible to take account of each individual runners' issues

And yes, the target times might then need to change along the way

28/04/2010 at 13:00

Agree with all that (as I have posted above) but perhaps the romance of "Sub something" brings more excitement and therefore people onto the forums and the site as a whole. Whichever thread you read, the majority of people are aiming for sub this or sub that. Afterall, the Supersix programme is supposed to be a big challenge to each participant.

As BR said, it would be very interesting to have feedback from RW, if not the sponsors.

28/04/2010 at 13:00

Further to that which was quoted by Sue....

It would be nice if some of the mentors would give some feedback to RW.  They are all experienced and, in some cases, world class runners.  They have to know that the whole thing is arse about face and is pretty disappointing that they don't actually make a stand and do it properly or not at all. 

As far as I can see the fix is pretty simple.  You keep everything the same with three changes:

1)  Supersix thread for runner A with a 1:30 half marathon time aiming for the FLM.  Runner B with a 32:00 10k time etc.  The difference being they are recently achieved times rather than picked off a shelf targets.

2)  Let the coaches coach the runners so you can see how a schedule is a living, breathing, personal thing.  The runners must commit to the schedule and preferably not do irrelevant club sessions because "they like to be with their friends".  If they insist upon that then, because the coach is setting the schedule, they can manage / influence these towards the goal.

3)  You have to extend the 16 week period, to include at least a pre-marathon focus period.  Otherwise you end up with this boil in the bag marathoning where you are cramming things in for the sake of a piece of paper and inappropriate ramping up of training without due background.

At the end of the day RW's plans will sell themselves if RW demonstrates some running expertise - whether the super sixers follow a piece of paper or the advice of a coach.  The more and more I think about it the more this whole thing seems to have been designed and organised by somebody who knows very little about running.  Surely not the intention behind it and counter productive for all parties involved in the long run. 

Edited: 28/04/2010 at 13:03
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