Can I ever reach the top?

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04/09/2012 at 11:52

Hey guys.

Basically I'm a 17 year old distance runner. Started running in March last year when I fancied having a go at a 10k race near me. Since then it's become my biggest obsession, and being out injured for 4 months has left me pretty depressed.

Being a perfectionist and very competitive can be stressful at times. I want to be at the top end, I've been inspired by the Olympics and I want to get right up the top end in my age group and be well known, win a medal in Rio or 2020. Sounds a bit unrealistic I know.

One year after starting running, I ran 37:30 for 10k. I can run a mile in 5 mins (but that was training, I can imagine I can do faster in a race). I'm 6ft 4 and quite slender built which I believe is an advantage. I've not been sporty until these last couple of years, I love mountaineering but do it rarely. I've cycled to school for over 2 years every day, 50 miles of cycling a week, and before I started running this is all I really did. I did karate and football for a bit in my younger years but gave up that.

I just wanted to ask whether there's any hope for me as I feel like I can't compete with my age group- because I started much later than them. The majority have been doing it since they were 12-13 and are already running 4:20 for a mile if not more, 35 min 10ks and 16 minute 5k's. I generally race against all ages rather than race track events in championships or age categories, but I know if I wanted to pursue my dream I'd probably have to go onto shorter distances. I love the longer distances, but most of my age group seem to race only track. By my 'age group', I'm referring to some of the whizz kids from other local clubs who I've heard of, researched, and sometimes spill into the races which I do.

I feel like I can't compete because they train the same structure, intensity and mileage as me- to beat them I would have to train more but risk getting injured. So even if I match it, they're going to keep improving and I will never catch them. The majority of these kids who are a lot faster than me and have competed for county are also younger than me. I'm at a disadvantage too because it seems these kids have been supported and encouraged by parents. My dad is an ex-marathon runner and has taught me a lot but I can't even get lifts to track or races.. these kids get full backing from their parents who have introduced them from a young age and take them all over the country to compete. If they're already really quick, I just don't think I'll ever catch them and get high ranked in my age categories in races. They never seem to get injuries- I've got bad problems with my biomechanics hence my injuries- I just don't feel like I'm a naturally talented runner whereas these guys are.

Can any of you enlighten me? Thanks for any advice and replies.

04/09/2012 at 11:58

Join a club, get a coach, it'll take a few years to find your potential, but they will help.

If it isnt the top, you'll get fit having a go and the club structure will help you train without getting injured.

I dont think they are naturally talented either. Just that they have a head start of a few years. Stop pushing so hard and you'll catch up (slowly slowly catchy monkey).

Good luck!

04/09/2012 at 12:09

Thanks. I'm in a club, but the other local club with the kids in makes us look like the amateurs!

04/09/2012 at 12:12

Alex, there was a guy down my way who did a 37:30 10k at about 18. I remember it because I was about a minute behind, it was about 2005.

He's now well into the 31s, so whilst not international level, certainly a level that would win 99% of 10k races in this country.

No reason you wouldn't be able to improve quicky and steadily with the right coaching.

Dont' worry about the local kids who are fast now. They'll be the exception, and you'll probably find most of them will drop out by their 20s anyway.

04/09/2012 at 12:36
Stevie G . wrote (see)

He's now well into the 31s, so whilst not international level, certainly a level that would win 99% of 10k races in this country.

Stevie - Not in the NE it wouldn't! Your Southern races are much softer than those up here

Alex - A 37.30 10k and 5 minute mile are pretty respectable. There's every reason to think you have lots of improvement in you. Don't worry about what your ultimate potential is or what others are doing. You can't alter those things. All you can do is train smart and see where it gets you.

04/09/2012 at 15:04

Utter nonsense Mr Viper.

Quick check on power of 10 of runners from the NE v SE who have gonesub 31:30 in 2012 shows 14-12 in favour of the SE. And in 2011 the NE only won by 22-20. So looks pretty even I'd say.

Show me all these races where 31:30 or so wouldn't win a 10k in the NE. I'd be amazed if there are many, and they'd probably be the big ones.

Bearing in mind there are 100s of 10ks in the country, and the top runners only congregate at a few....31:30 would definitely win 99%.

Still...we won't get there, so I'll stick with my top 10s in my soft southern 10ks eh

04/09/2012 at 15:33

SG - I suspect Mr V was using your wildly inaccurate "99%" win rate as an excuse for a bit of north/south banter.  Have another look at powerof10; a quick scan of all the 10k (full) results around the country, just going back to 21st August, reveals that 8 out of 27 were won in under 31:30, so more like 1 in 3 than 1 in 100.

Cheers, mine's a shandy!

Edited: 04/09/2012 at 15:34
04/09/2012 at 15:34

Sorry but I still think you are wrong

It would indeed win many but nothing like 99%. As an example I've checked the last 6 weeks and can find 5 10ks in the NE. See winning times below. All were won sub 31:30. I'm not trying to be selective here. If you picked another period plenty would be won in more than 31:30 but like I say its nothing like 99%.

Billingham: winning time 29.56 (238 finishers)

Darlington: winning time 30.24 (1166 finishers)

Middlesbrough: winning time 30.11 (2000 finishers)

Gateshead: winning time 29.34 (2000ish I think)

Morpeth: winning time 31:26 (299 finishers)

And you are right we won't get there. Maybe I'll come down and try and get a nice finishing position in one of your soft 5K races though  

Edit - Yep Phil's right was just meant as banter - please don't take the above too seriously!

Edited: 04/09/2012 at 15:35
04/09/2012 at 15:37

Imagine how fast those races would be if they got rid of all t'cobbles!

04/09/2012 at 15:42
A recent survey said that 99% of knob head banter was apocryphal or at least widely innaccurate
04/09/2012 at 15:49

Or, PP, what you mean is about 66% would have been won with a 31:30, not 99% (though a couple of those sub-31:30s were only just...).  So the same 26 blokes must've been dashing around the country splitting the prize funds between themselves.

Terrible looking figures though, aren't they?  I mean, if you have a third of 10k races won in sub-31:30, you might mistakenly believe that a third of racers can run sub-31:30.  Certainly if  you were a journalist you could construe it that way in an editorial.  Whereas the fact is that 26 people this year have gone sub 31:30, and the other whoknowshowmany racers haven't.  I'm sure that makes anyone who can reach that level quicker than 99.9% (or greater) runners in the country, and puts you in the top 0.0000005% of 10k times (this year) in Britain by total population!!!

04/09/2012 at 16:38

I thought I'd have a little look at the stats power of 10 offers.

145 people have broken 31:30 this year, but only in 40separate races.

Power of 10 lists 489 road 10ks in 2012 so far, so that's 40/489 giving 8% of races won in sub 31:30. (not the 1% i had suggested)

However, power of 10 as we know, doesn't give anywhere near the full picture of races, whilst I'm pretty sure runners who can do sub 31:30 would generally only do those times on power of 10 approved courses. (I've done 31 10k races in my time, and probably 3 or so have made it onto power of 10)

Similarly, no MT 10k courses are listed on the power of 10 for 2012, and I doubt many of those are won in sub 31:30, and there will be hundreds of those in the country.

Therefore, from power of 10 the figure is 8% of 10ks won in sub 31:30, but the real figure that is much harder to calculate, would be a lot closer to 1% than 8% I'm sure.

 

Edited: 04/09/2012 at 16:47
04/09/2012 at 16:56
Stevie G . wrote (see)

 

Therefore, from power of 10 the figure is 8% of 10ks won in sub 31:30, but the real figure that is much harder to calculate, would be a lot closer to 1% than 8% I'm sure.

 


Sorry SG but this analysis just suggests that you don't have a very good grasp of statistics.  Ignoring the 10k MT (I think you're clutching at straws a bit there; most people would assume we're talking about road 10ks after all...) for your 40 out of 489 races / 8% to be converted to 1%, you'd be talking about 40 sub-31:30 out of 4,000 races.

The chances that power of 10 has missed  at least 3,511 10k results where the winning time is slower than 31:30 are roughly 14 gazillion to one!

04/09/2012 at 17:04
Alex Staniforth 2 wrote (see)

I feel like I can't compete because they train the same structure, intensity and mileage as me- to beat them I would have to train more but risk getting injured. So even if I match it, they're going to keep improving and I will never catch them. The majority of these kids who are a lot faster than me and have competed for county are also younger than me. I'm at a disadvantage too because it seems these kids have been supported and encouraged by parents. My dad is an ex-marathon runner and has taught me a lot but I can't even get lifts to track or races.. these kids get full backing from their parents who have introduced them from a young age and take them all over the country to compete. If they're already really quick, I just don't think I'll ever catch them and get high ranked in my age categories in races. They never seem to get injuries- I've got bad problems with my biomechanics hence my injuries- I just don't feel like I'm a naturally talented runner whereas these guys are.

Can any of you enlighten me? Thanks for any advice and replies.

Not necessarily. A lot of young athletes drop out between 17 and 22. They go to uni/get jobs/get girl/boyfriends, get injured, leave home and their current training set up etc... and their priorities change and they drift away from the sport. Yes they have a head-start on you now, but the game changes quite quickly.

Regarding lifts, learn to drive or choose races that you can get to by train! Or buddy up with other people that you know who are going and share lifts. From the age of 16 onwards my parents only came to the important or very local races, the rest I predominantly sorted myself out, with friends, teammates or public transport, or occassionally even cycled there from train stations. Identify your "A races" at the start of the year, and ask your parents to commit to lifts to those with plenty of notice.

If you don't want to change your club or coach, why not try something like a BMC camp? Here you will be able to get advice about training and some ideas for sessions from very expert coaches, and meet other athletes of the same age which you can buddy up with for lifts and generally sharing training advice. Changing how you train is a good idea for every athlete who wants to improve every 6 months or so - bring in new ideas, see what is working and what isn't, identify targets and key races and what training is required to perform well in them.

Regarding biomechanics, the best thing here is to start doing regular drills sessions. If you perform a standard set of drills with close attention to biomechanics 2-3 times a week plus over a period of time you will start to see an improvement. This takes time - it takes 6 weeks for any physiological change to occur, but over a few months this should start to correct some of the issues that you have. Occassionally running on a treadmill, or having someone film you running, is useful so that you can track this progress and see exactly the issues that you have when you run at race pace.

04/09/2012 at 17:38

Stevie - No comment to the point I made about the last 5 10ks in the NE all being won in under 31:30? Like it say this is not in the least bit unusual. And even it was and no other runs across the whole year in the NE were won in under that time the point would still stand. Afterall there are nowhere near 500 different 10ks in the NE.

If the 1% figure is true (which it clearly isn't)  then that just further illustartes the point I made (tongue in cheek) that the NE has a higher standard.

My original comment was of course said in jest but actually I think there is porbably some truth behind it. The NE does have a particularly high standrad of running compared to many regions in the UK. It's not surprising given the history of distance running in the NE. In Morpeth and Gateshead harriers there are 2 of the most famous and successful clubs in the country (the standard of Morpeth runners is crazy). Not to mention the biggest race in the country.

04/09/2012 at 18:14

Phil, the figure of 1% is clearly too low then, but the general point to the young lad was that get to that pace and you'll win the massive vast vast majority of races! It was a bit of a throwaway remark in fairness, but interesting debate none the less!

For what it's worth, I reckon the true figure would come out around 5%, factoring in MT races (I didn't state just road at the start and no reason for these to be left out), and the no doubt 100s of ARC races, not forgetting to factor in the odd sub 31:30 runner in those races

From what I hear, the ARC thing seems to be a largely southern disease, and I've only ever seen races my way won under 31:30 twice (and that was fields of 700 and 450, we have loads of small 200 or less strong fields down here). Once by a guy who ran in the Olympic marathon, and once by Phil Wicks, GB runner. As I also factored in, I know from my experience the massive majority of 10ks I've done haven't been included on Power of 10.

Sounds like the NE does have a terrific standard Mr V. I think they won the "best city for running" thing in the latest copy of RW, but the measuring scheme was a bit confusing at best.

While the overall tally of runners doing sub 31:30 might be similar to the SE, as per the stats we discussed earlier, it seems from what you're saying that you don't have nearly as many wheat and chaff 10ks as we do down here. Clearly it's those races that massively bring the percentage of times under 31:30 down.

I can;t even remember where the hell this 31:30 time came from....but I think I'll trot back off to other threads where a time in the mid 30s is considered fast

04/09/2012 at 18:27

Stevie - What's the reason for there being so many ARC races down South? Am I right in thinking its to do with cost?

04/09/2012 at 19:06

Think it must be. On asking a couple of race directors, I think they aren't necessarily aware of the draw of the UKA/Power of 10 thing either.

In fairness, it's probably only a small percentage of the field who even know or care anyway.

Very frustrating for me in the days 36 mins was the benchmark to get onto the 10k rankings though, as my 3 qualifiers were all ARC. A couple I didn't realise until after.

Now they've stretched the 10k entry miles down, so it won't be an issue..

Edited: 04/09/2012 at 19:08
04/09/2012 at 19:39
Apparently the author of the article will be on BBC radio Newcastle tomorrow explaining why he choose it as the best city in the UK for running.
04/09/2012 at 20:03

Might be worth a listen, because the categories and the pro rating of stats seemed an utter nonsense.

Like how can London be one of the worst cities for running when it hosts some of the biggest races and has such an array of clubs and runners. And how can Nottingham fall from near the top to 17th. Bonkers.

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