Q I seem to have been quite a good runner from the start. In my first race I placed sixth; on the next couple I was pushing between second and third. Five years later I appear to be going backwards. I train very hard but I cant seem to get better. My racing times sometimes dont even match up to my training times, but I dont want to give up. I think Ive got a future as a runner can you help?A You do not say what age you were when you started running. This could be a factor if you were an early developer as a child and have since been caught up by others. Also, what about your size, shape and weight have they changed to your disadvantage?
If these are not the cause of your problems, it might be that you are just training too hard at times, and especially too close to races. Have you tried having an easy week, or even three or four days of doing virtually nothing prior to an important race?
Your diet is worth thinking about, too. Does it have a good balance of carbohydrate for energy, protein, fats and minerals? Are you eating enough carbohydrate on race days (in easily digestible form if necessary), as well as keeping properly hydrated?
My final point for you to ponder is that there is a danger in becoming obsessed with times and/or positions in every race you run. These may not always give a true guide to your level of performance as tactics, weather, the fitness of the opposition and other factors can play a part. Try, if you can, to find positive elements to take from your races, such as times for particular sections, or closeness to a particular rival. Let the good points boost you, rather than allowing the bad points to discourage you.
George Gandy, Director of Athletics at Loughborough University