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Life in the Fast Lane?

What are you doing, Dorian?

I have noted over the last few years, that as runners age, there is a tendency to try longer and longer races. A marathon is not enough, so try an ultra, such as Cotswold Way. But perhaps because I like to be a bit “contrary”, I have chosen a different approach and have gone from 5k to 10 mile trail and XC races to running on the track, and not 5,000m or 10,000m, but sprinting 100m and 200m!

So, why have I done this?

It certainly won’t help my Parkrun times, as the principle of “specificity” in training applies, i.e. if you want to run fast Parkruns, you must train for 5k off road races, not marathons, or 400m on the track. The reason was the suspicion that I might actually be better at short distances rather than long. This suspicion came from observation and reflection on my running.

Back in 2016, I was fortunate to work on a project in Pembroke. This meant I worked away from home and I trained with the local running club on a Tuesday evening. I noted that when we did shorter efforts, sometimes in the sand-dunes, I was able to stay closer to the fast guys than when we did the longer efforts. So, did I have more speed than endurance strength? When running back in Ciren, I observed the same trait. But it took the approach of my 60th birthday, and therefore the change in age category, to actually do something about it.

In spring 2020, I contacted Swindon Harriers about a trial session with their sprinters group. In early March, I turned up at the Swindon track at Foundation Park (just behind the Swindon Town football stadium) for a session of 11x 300m, 2.5 minutes recovery. Well, I ran the first two in 56/57 seconds and nearly died! On the coach’s advice, I slowed them to 60s and managed to do 7 reps. Although the session was not very different to a typical interval session we would do on a Tuesday evening, the recoveries were long enough to enable one to run at 95%+ and so were really intense. At the end of the session I told the coach, Howard Moscrop (look him up on Power of 10 – you might be surprised), that I would be back in a fortnight, as I couldn’t do the next week because I was coaching the Middle Group. I obviously enjoyed it enough and although some of my muscles were complaining afterwards, nothing was broken. But I never made it back that year. In under two weeks, we were all in Lockdown, and I wasn’t to get to the track again until April ‘21.

For the Autumn of 2020, I followed Jack Daniel’s 800m runners training plan, from his excellent book "Running Formula", and then, in 2021, I got on Howard’s emailed group’s training plan. Howard trains athletes from 60m through to middle distance, including hurdlers, and as I did not know what would be my best track distance, I did one session of short sprints, one 400m runners’ hill session and a middle-distance interval session each week. By March I was completely shattered and was glad that when I spoke to Howard, he told me to do only two of the speed sessions a week, especially as I wanted to do the Thursday morning social run in Cirencester.

Eventually, the track sessions recommenced and I was able to join the sprinters group on a Tuesday evening at the track, hence why you haven’t seen much of me this year at the Tuesday club sessions.

Next time, I will describe the similarities between training for sprinters and endurance runners, and what that means for our training.

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