I got to disagree Grendel3, running is easy... all it is is one foot in front of the other. Getting to a decent level is the hard part but the basics are easy!
When I first heard of this project last year I was intrigued. A quick look through his website showed that he was never going to get there. I don't know why anyone is so put out by his ambition. He showed with a lot of hard work he could improve his half marathon times considerably but not really his marathon times. If anything he showed how hard it must be to get to a level that he couldn't achieve. This looks good for the people who can get this level, no? They should be well happy, not insulted by any stretch of the imagination.
What is surprising me is all this talk of "he's capable of doing a 2h 30m marathon" because some test said he could. Good luck with that, the test is the marathon not some running on a treadmill exercise measuring your heart rate and what not. You can't run a 2h 58m pb and then say you can run a 2h 30m one because a test told you so!
As Alex learned the marathon is a cruel race - you spend months preparing for one race and there's every possibility it'll go tits up on the day. No test can prepare you for what could be in store for you at mile 24!
At least this thread has now calmed down into a debate and not a slanging match it was quickly degenerating into... some good points over the last two pages.
I do realise that Running is easy in that respect - but as you say getting to a reasonable level is the hard part and that is what this guy has actually achieved - and the idea that elite athletes are jealous or whatever -which was menitoned early on is ridiculous.
The standard of our guys now is nothing short of scanderlous and they are not elite runners - 2:15 is not an elite time - it is the time that in the 80s that a lot of good runners were capable of - blokes like Andy Catton of Ilford, Jim Goldring Woodford Green and they did not consider themselves elite -
Steve Brace, Trevor Hawes etc regularly used to run 2:12-2:14 and they were the second string blokes behind Foster, Spedding Jones etc.
2:15 is now 11 minutes off world record pace and 8 minutes off British Record pace.
I can't understand how this topic could become a slanging match though - I will have to take the time to read through from the beginning!
Kent Girl is absolutely right that this has turned into a fascinating thread-a real debate,with good arguments on both sides.
Grendel has introduced a much wider issue-why UK distance runners today can't match their predecessors of 20-30 years ago,despite more runners,better nutrition,equipment,footwear etc.
Now that really is the "64,000 $ question".We all have our theories,but for me it's mostly down to more sedentary childhoods and the fact that the typical race-entrant is that much older than his/her equivalent 30 years ago.
We can't blame Alex Vero for that ! and while I am one of those who thought his initial pronouncements (2.15 marathon/2008 Olympics) were patently ridiculous,I respect the fact that he has turned himself into a very decent runner.
Mike B, fair play to you for achieving sub 2.30,
Putting aside the argument over whether any suggestion has been made about whose fault it is, wouldn't you agree the relative decline in standards of UK marathon running is an interesting debate.
It certainly intrigues me, there has been a running boom over the last 20 years (which you would expect to filter down to youngsters), coupled with advances in technology allied to training (measurement of V02 max, Olb etc), which would point to anoverall improvement at then elite end, yet the trend has been opposite. You are well placed to judge, firstly do you accept the relative decline, and if so is there any consensus amonst your contemporaries as to why that may be?
And there lies the problem now whne my former training partner achieved 2:29 he was outside the top 200 in a much smaller field of marathon runners, now that time would generelly place him in the top 50, he wasn't even in the first 3 vets with that time,I ran 2:41 at the same time and managed a place in the top 900 now that time would give me a place in the top 200 and that is the decline of the British distance runner.
Before I had to call it a day due to injury we weould go out on a Sunday morning a large group of us on the sunday run, I can't remember when I last saw that - all I see now is individual joggers going very slowly listening to ipods.
I posted recently on a thread where someone was looking for the best place on the London course to stop and meet up with his (or her) training partner - I suggested on that thread the best place to meet was at the finish when they had both run their own races.
What the second wave of the running boom has done is to make it an achievement to finish the marathon - the idea of a time goal seems to have gone out the window. Now I appreciate that a lot of people do not have the time to train and prepare properly, it took me 6 years hard training to get to 2:41, there a rel a lot of single guys out there in their early 20s who must have the talent to do it properley -
I suppose the answer is that there are so many other distractions around now and we do have a softer life style than even 25 years ago, and remember the likes of Jones, Spedding etc gre up in the post war years of the 50s and 60s when life was certainly harder than now.
I certainly don't think our not so elite runners should get upset by one mans claims that he will run 2:15 - he won't but all hail to him for trying and I think someone mentioned Tracey Morris as being an elite athlete, when in fact if you take Paula Radcliffe's world reciord out of the equation she is about 10-12 minutes off elite pace.
ANd for some great footage go to you tube and search for Coe and Ovett and admire what we used to be.
Another question for MikeB, which relates to one of my bugbears when it comes to the issue of the decline...
What was your diet like as a youngster? Was it a lot of nuggets and chips / burgers etc or did your parents provide a lot of pasta and rice based meals? Also, the other guys you know in the top 50 - is that a topic you discuss?
The runners from the 1980s would have been born in the 1950s - a time of far less processed food and convenience items, when mothers (usually) would buy fresh food from the butchers / grocers and cook a wholesome meal that day. There were also far less crisps / chocolate / sweets around.
15 years of that type of diet as opposed to the one most teenagers would have now is worth all the HRMs, Ipods, Cushioned shoes and treadmill programmes in the world.
To continue that theme - both hilly and I have achieved a reasonable standard for now (2:56 for a woman and 2:42 for a man). We both believe we would have been quicker had we not spent our 20s smoking (in both cases) and drinking beer and eating pies (in my case). That decade of bodily abuse is costing us now, in the same way that a decade of eating rubbish would affect a British 20 year old trying to compete with an African 20 year old raised on a more natural diet.
One thing we do have is the advantage that we both walked / cycled to school and as children were not ferried everywhere in parents' cars (in fact my Dad never had a car so I biked everywhere) which has probably stood us in good stead when we took up running in our late 20s.
Barnsleyrunner - not everyone has a poor diet these days and eats processed food, although I do accept that fewer people eat properly now than 20 years ago. For instance, I work full-time in a demanding job and have twins aged 9, and I still find time to cook properly. I have a fantastic cheap organic vegetable and fruit box delivered each week - www.riverford.co.uk - and buy meat from a local butcher. I almost never buy anything processed other than baked beans and Heinz tomato soup. I'm sure I'm not alone.
I agree with the postings that say that think fewer people can be bothered to put in the miles needed to achieve a high level of performance. It requires so much sacrifice and it's easier not to. I know someone who got a sports scholarship to Millfield in the 80s, followed by a degree in sports science at Loughborough where she was trained by George Gandy, was nationally ranked in 800 and 1,500 m. She dropped out of competitive running as she decided it was all too difficult and she'd rather have fun. 15 years later, she still runs for fun and has done the FLM in a respectable time, but doesn't run competitively anymore.
The 50 or so guys MikeB mentions and dozens of others I know do put in the big miles and still don't achieve times that would have seen them highly ranked in the 80s. To denigrate the efforts of these people (as was implied in AV's original thesis) is unfair.
I think modern day lifestyle plays an enormous part. As you say, you get your organic fruit and veg box delivered to your door. 30 years ago many would have walked down to the local shop or even their allotment, building more fitness than clicking a few buttons.
Also far more people are suffering with asthma related conditions, due in large part to the heavy increase in traffic on our roads. This will play a part in limiting training potential and performance for many.
I can't get excited one way or the other about Vero, but speculation as to the decline in modern distance running standards in GB does get me thinking.
Re BR's post, I'm not so convinced that dietary standards are that much higher; memories of my own C2DE upbringing include seeing the chip pan come out a good 2 or 3 evenings a week. Also - the sweets, ice-cream, the fizzy pop we consumed in the 60s and 70s - weren't they all still full of nasty additives (tartrazine) and (then) unregulated E-numbers?
Can I suggest that the psychological climate for sport in general (athletics being just one example) 20-30 years ago was (at least in part) responsible for the higher standards being achieved then? It was a lot harsher, and more competitive - even in the school environment. If you succeeded, you were considered good enough - if you didn't, you weren't - and your peers would let you know it. So you desperately didn't want to fail (I'm sure Steve Ovett has been quoted as saying as a very young child, that was one of his first sporting memories) - to the most talented, this provided the spur to to go on and achieve that much more than they might have done otherwise.
Yes, it probably also produced a lot of "casualties" who may or may not have been driven away from the sport by this - those who weren't quite good enough; those who had the talent, but failed to "front up" when their big chance came.
Today, it's all a lot more "inclusive" and friendly. Someone reports on a carp race performance on the daily training thread - the usual response is the "bad luck, well done anyway" comment, which encourages the mentality of "OK, I didn't perform today, but there's always my next race". That's fine for the level that 99% of us perform at - but no use at all for the 1% who have a chance of hitting elite standard.
Interesting points made. We tend to look back 20-40 years and say the standard of UK running was higher - and look for social/environmental reasons why that was. What if we look back 50-60 years - what was the standard like then - I don't know but I'm assuming it was lower than the 70s-80s golden period.
Similarly if we look back at women in the 70s when perhaps we didn't have a lot of women running competitively - were their times similarly better than the women today - again I don't really know but I'm guessing not.
Does that suggest that the main factor is the level of competition - fast times come with lots of young people running competitively. Alternatively maybe the 70s - 80s was really a time where people coming through had grown up without lots of pollution but still hadn't been spoilt/softened by modern living - sort of a window when they had the best of all worlds. I think I tend to go with the former but it's certainly not cut and dried.
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