After the usual fast start, Kerry is settling into a rhythm, his muscles have warmed up and his breathing has calmed down. However, this is further than Bolt has run before. In training he practises block starts, performs reps of 100m and 200m, and does gym work. A kilometre in one go is placing different demands on his body. He has run to this first marker very quickly but will already be producing lactic acid, a byproduct of your muscles converting fuel to energy. It’s what gives you that burning sensation in your legs.
‘Athletes convert glycogen, your body’s fuel source, to energy in one of two ways: by using oxygen, known as “aerobically”, or without using oxygen, known as “anaerobically”,’ says Meddings. ‘Distance runners train aerobically and push their body to improve their lactate threshold – to put off the point at which lactic acid is produced.
Sprinters train anaerobically, as this gives them a massive short-term burst of fuel needed to run very fast over a short distance. But their lactate threshold is much lower which means in this case that Bolt will already be starting to fight the lactate.’ That’s right: although it’s difficult to predict exactly when the burning will hit him, super-fit as he is, Bolt over this distance is going to cramp up a whole lot earlier than you are.
The aim: Improve your lactate threshold
‘Runners often confuse lactate threshold training and tempo training,’ says Mike Antoniades, director of the Running School (runningschool.co.uk).
‘They are different. Tempo training is composed of longer runs of two miles or more at between marathon and half marathon pace, and is done to develop an overall faster ‘base’ pace. Lactate threshold training consists of shorter repeats at 10K pace or faster, the goal being to raise your lactate production point by flooding your muscles with lactic acid and training them to put this off.’
Do the short, sharp session below once a week as part of your training. It’s good for all distances from 5K to marathon, says Antoniades.
•Do 12x1-minute repeats at nearly full pace with 2-minute recovery jogs in between.
•The repeats should be the fastest pace you can run while still maintaining form and feeling smooth and relaxed – they should feel 7-8 out of 10 in terms of effort.
•The recoveries should be very easy jogging, enabling you to get your breath back within 30 seconds – effort for these should feel 2-3 out of 10.