Should I race a 5K and a half in the same week?
JamesEarlJones I have a bit of a dilemma about a race tonight. It's a 5K road race around a closed-traffic cycle circuit. From September the circuit will be flattened to make way for the 2012 Olympic village, so this is the last ever race there.
The circuit really suits me; I ran 17:17 (a PB) there back in November. Part of me really wants to go off hard; a fast time would be great for confidence after Saturday's disaster, but I have my half-marathon on Sunday - my secondary goal race for the spring. How much impact do you it would have on my HM?
Mike Gratton If you're taking the half seriously I would steer clear of the 5K, otherwise you will compromise everything and start a bit of a spiral downwards if you're not careful. If you want to run the 5K because it is going to be the last one, why not volunteer to pace someone who is going to run it at a slower pace than you and avoid the temptation to really go for it.
Can low expectations lead to a better performance on race day?
Becky S Twice this year I've gone into a race with low expectations and really surprised myself with my performance. I have a feeling that if I had gone into it with higher expectations, putting more pressure on myself, I wouldn't have performed as well.
Mike Gratton BeckyS, sometimes talking yourself down really works in taking the pressure off - I have known plenty of elite athletes who'll have you believe that their left leg is hanging off, they have had a cold for six weeks and haven't been able to train properly for three months - they then go off and beat you. It's just their way of dealing with the nerves.
Should I try to change my running style?
JamesEarlJones Little did I know that while doing my tempo run at the track on Tuesday, three coaches were discussing my (lack of) style. I am landing on my forefoot, but making a fair bit of noise in the process rather than elegantly gliding along. Over the past few months as my pace has increased, I've started doing this rather than landing flat-footed.
Two of the coaches (both very experienced, but specialising in sprint coaching) were of the opinion that I need some technique coaching in order to prevent injury (they think it could lead to shin splints). The third one - an endurance coach, also very experienced and fully aware of my mileage etc - was thinking along the lines of it being too dangerous to change anything at this stage.
In my short running career I've not had any pain in my shins, but am conscious that I've not been running in this way in training before. Do you have any thoughts on the matter?
Mike Gratton I would look to the sprint coaches to get some simple sprint drills to help with your running style and form. You can introduce these into your warm-up: things like high knees, heel kicks, fast-feet, are all simple and can be done as 3 or 4 x 50m during your warm-up routine.
I don't think it will change your running style that much, your individual style tends to be determined by your skeletal make-up and range of movement in your joints and connective tissue, but they will give you better posture when you run, and teach you to run forward without wasted sideways or upward movements.
Your endurance coach is right though, you should introduce them very gradually as they will put new stress on you as you develop a wider range of movement.
Elite hard training and the will to succeed
Mike Gratton I think Tracey Morris has possibly started the cure for underperformance in British distance running. If there are enough people out there who think, 'if Tracey can do it, so can I' then there may be a belief that it is achievable and they will train for it.
It's the desire to get to the top that's the problem, not the infrastructure, and there hasn't been enough belief that it is attainable and worth the extraordinary effort that is required.
I spoke to a group of 40 marathon runners on the UK squad in February 2004. They seemed to take on board the need for hard training, and maybe we're starting to see things improve.
Hard training, the old days, and full-time work
My limited theory about why some of the top British male runners do not make the step up to the marathon relates to the working environment most of us have.
For example, I've read that Ron Hill and Steve Jones did most of their sessions as part of their daily commute. How may of today's current crop have the opportunity to do this?
I am sure most of us can't - I'd be on 500 mile weeks if I did this!
Mike Gratton Work is a problem, but if someone really wants to get to the top they can organise it. I was a PE teacher and used to run in in the morning and home or to the track in the evening. My Wednesday used to be teaching geography in the morning, cross-country club at lunch time, sixth form hockey all afternoon and a 15-mile run in the evening.... followed by a few pints in the Royal Dragoon in Canterbury to deaden the soreness.
I didn't own a car and ran everywhere.
'Whatever happened to...'
Mike Gratton Charlie Spedding had to retire because of achilles tendon trouble, Steve Jones ran LM this year in 2.50 he lives in Boulder Colorado, Eamonn Martin is coaching, Mike McLeod still pops up in races and I think his son is very good, I think one of the Tooby's married Geoff Whiteman who ran for GB in the European Marathon in the 80's. Kathy Binns was second in London in 82 (I think) and became a doctor. Of the other UK London Marathon winners, Hugh Jones is still a prolific racer, wins Barbados most years (his wife comes from there), but I'm not sure what has happened to Allister Hutton - I saw him at the London Marathon 21st birthday party, but not since.
What, if anything, would you have changed in your training with the benefit of hindsight?
Mike Gratton I don't think I would have changed much...maybe ease up for a few more races as I think I could have run a much faster 10km than I did but it was always compromised by training for marathons and taken more rest post marathon - I ran the fifth-fastest time at the National 12-Stage relay 6 days after winning the London Marathon - not a good idea in the end.