Real-Life Successes: Time-Efficient Training

What can you do when family life and work mean you can no longer keep running as your number-one priority? Pete Kennedy found the answer

Posted: 17 February 2006
by Marguerite Lazell


NAME: Pete Kennedy
AGE: 35
GOAL: To get satisfaction from his running with limited time to train
HOW HE ACHIEVED IT: Concentrated on quality sessions, and got involved in non-standard events

Imagine this: You are granted an extra two hours in a day, and suddenly you have time to train as much as you like, without getting up before dawn or feeling that you are neglecting your family and friends in the evening.

Now, the reality: Your working hours are creeping up, and your partner is picking up the slack so that you can keep your average mileage at the arbitrary level – 40, 50, 60 miles a week – that has become your benchmark. As Pete Kennedy (RW member Tmap) discovered, something’s got to give.

When Pete realised there simply weren't enough days in the week to do the running he wanted, keep on top of his unpredictable working patterns and see his wife and three children, he knew he'd have to radically overhaul the way he trained. In 2004, he dipped inside the magic three-hour mark for the marathon, but since then, he has had to re-evaluate how he trains to be as time-efficient as possible.

"If I could, I would run every day, maybe twice," he says. In reality, if he manages 30 miles in a week he feels he's ahead of the game. Despite such 'minimal' mileage, his rate of return is impressive: he has recorded a 1:22 half-marathon and a 37:07 10K so far this year.

"I do fairly well on little training," Pete admits. "But the old cliché that you get out what you put in is certainly true." With a background of years of rowing and running, he is well-versed in training techniques, and has found that learning to be more in tune with his body helps him make the most of it.

"I think that my improvements are almost all down to simply getting really good at pacing, rather than actually getting quicker. After a while you can hit mile splits within a second or two and judge your effort to perfection," he says.

It's not chasing a PB that has motivated Pete this year. He's recently joined a club, and says it has opened a whole new dimension to his running. With club handicaps, and events like the Green Belt Relay he's found that running can be a team sport. And bizarrely, he's entered London to Brighton (L2B), the oldest ultramarathon in Britain.

"I'm not quite sure why I'm doing it," he confesses. "The idea of another city marathon just didn't appeal at all; I found myself drifting aimlessly after my sub-3 and needed a new aim. It's something different and I suppose I just want to see if I can do it."

Inevitably, Pete's mileage will increase as he prepares for L2B, but he won't be doing the number of miles that most ultra-runners do. He plans to do his long runs at weekends, and do his mid-week training by running home from work whenever he can.

It will give him plenty of time to think up his next challenge – since going sub-3, he's found that while striving for PBs can be rewarding, chasing times doesn't concentrate his mind as much as it used to. He's taking a more holistic view of running now.

"I certainly think it's worth people realising that you can enjoy running and even do quite well without putting in the kind of time commitments that even "get you round" schedules call for," he says. "It's hard to say how suitable this would be for others, as the more I run, the more it seems to me that it's your cumulative running over your whole lifetime that makes a real difference. I may not run much, but I've been running on and off for my whole life."

Expert View

If you have limited time to train, make every mile count. Exercise physiologist Duncan Malcolm agrees that there is a cumulative effect once you have been running for three or more years uninterrupted. "You can maintain a level of fitness with less running than it takes to build it," he says. He says that if you know that your time for training is going to be limited every run has to count.

"If you want to keep running the same times, you really have to think about quality, think about your goals and be specific about what you are doing." Not a mile can be wasted; Malcolm believes that far too many runners include too high a volume of training, without thinking any further than ‘the more miles the better'.

You have to care with low volume, high intensity running of course. "There is more potential for injury," Malcolm says. But if you've got several years of running behind you, and want to reorganise your time, it doesn't have to mean the end of being competitive. And if your running isn't conflicting with your home and work life, everyone will be happier.

Tmap's story is one of an occasional series of real-life success stories that we are publishing on the website. If you have a story to share that could inspire others, why not read our guidelines for submission, and get in touch?

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Discuss this article

Tmap's article about fitting in time for training is a great one. I suppose I find it great as it's so pertinent to my own situation - father, husband, career stereotype!

I agree with the points he raises - the miles do count, and although I'd rather put my trail shoes on and do an 8m/m run around the local common, I know that putting on performance trainers and banging out 6x1k or 12x300m hills is better for me! Worst luck!

Cheers Tmap!
Posted: 17/02/2006 at 12:37

Is there more of the article, I could only see the RW intro? Good effort by TMAP, especially when you consider he has a war on antiAmerican policy on his hands.

Posted: 17/02/2006 at 13:03

Crikey - I can't believe they published that. How extraordinarily embarassing - I'd forgotten I'd sent them a picture. Ah well, it's mostly accurate, even though it's now nearly a year old.

Posted: 17/02/2006 at 17:05

can i have your autograph?
Posted: 17/02/2006 at 17:11

Tmap - Come and introduce yourself onto the "Stockport Harriers go FLM bonkers thread" - we are a small group who can all certainly learn from you, several are aiming for sub 3:00 FLM and most have the challenges that you appear to have overcome, work, family, miles (maybe not in that order) - come and join us and educate us please...

The thread is quite bizarre so some sanity would be welcome.
Posted: 18/02/2006 at 00:10

Yes, thanks Earl (Dodge?). Actually, I've found that if I spend time training instead of arguing with "George Bush causes hurricanes" loons I get a lot quicker. (Did you know that the actual New Orleans crime toll... oh, never mind).

I think the gist of the article is that it's odd to see that when you really scale back your training, you still get quicker - I think training is a much longer-term, cumulative game than many programs suggest.

However, since getting back up to 50mpw or so the PBs have really tumbled, so there's really no substitute for training properly. Which is hardly ground-breaking, is it?

Posted: 19/02/2006 at 15:22

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