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Weekend Witness Maritzburg Marathon: Training Tip 10
30 Dec 2011
Norrie Williamson

Tonight's the night for New Years resolutions!

Hogmanay – is a particularly important time for the Scots who arguably celebrate the New Year more enthusiastically than Christmas, despite the fact that it was the rigid Calvinistic teachings of Edinburgh based John Knox and Andrew Murray that initiated the N.G. Kerk in South Africa.

It is our pagan heritage that created the base of New Year celebrations and although evolved the world’s biggest New Year street party is held in Edinburgh each year. Armed with a piece of coal, (for warmth), shortbread, (for sustenance) and the traditional dram of whiskey Scots throughout the world will await the chimes of midnight then grace the thresholds of family and friends to ‘first foot’ and bring luck for the coming year.

Technical detail requires the ‘first foot’ to be tall, dark and handsome. However, political correctness and tolerance has thankfully edged a bit of leeway for the likes of the writer who is vertically challenged, hair-aged by colour and fervently believes beauty is in the eyes of the beholder! It is in this belief then that I offer these first-foot tips for your training in 2012!

Runners are typically ambitious people keen to make progress and many will resolve to train more and to be quicker in 2012.

Whilst such resolutions are well intended more focusedresolutions will offer greater direction, better motivation and will assuregreater outcomes.

Perhaps look to adopting a few of these:

More consistent:
Consistency is probably the number one requirement of any training programme. The best way is to have a regular training plan for theweek and to ensure that it fits in and around the other obligations and commitments of your lifestyle. Do not try to fill every available hour withtraining, rather plan to leave an extra day free from the regime and then use it when you can. So if you feel you can train six days a week, put plans inplace for five with two days for rest. This flexibility takes away the stress of having to achieve the full gambit every week, but you will be surprised how often you will be able to make use of the extra day!

Run with people 50-60% of the time:
Committing to run with others two or three days a weekprovides the necessary stimulus to get out of bed at that unearthly hour, or when it gets cold or wet. Running with people of different standards is also useful to ensure that you train at the correct pace and effort. So a short hard run with runners who are better than you, but are on their easier day helpspull you along, whereas a long slow run with people who have slower 10km times is a good way to hold you back on your easier days.

However don't commit to running every session with others as you need time to run alone to find your own rhythm and to allow the mind to be creative.

Know what you are doing:
Each and every time you go out the door for a session, you should know what you are trying to achieve and unless there is good reason such as an injury, illness or important reason to change plans you should stick to the session. This is where running with others can breakdown as many groups and runners simply run the same session every timethey go out and are directionless in their training. Although inherently social, such training rarely brings improvement and often results in deterioration of performance. This is another reason to vary the standard of runners you run with and why you should also run on your own.

Run Slower – so you can be faster:
This is perhaps the least understood training lesson, but the one that will provide the greatest returns if you work with it.

Its essential to run slow in the long, easy or recovery runs if you are to make progress. There are many reasons for this. Running at a low intensity means that your training is truly in the aerobic range and then you are in a position to teach your muscles to use fat for energy. True endurance comes from exercising in the fat burning zones, not from using carbohydrates. The easiest way to get into the fat-burning zone is to start very slow and keep your heart rate between65-75% of maximum.

Interestingly the pace for doing this (irrespective of the race distance you are training for) is roughly your predicted average Comrades pace or SLOWER.

This is probably the number one error of so many South African runners, in that they run the long runs, training marathons, and short ultras too fast to get benefit. It is the very reason that after winning the 2000 Comrades Vladimir Kotov said ‘South Africans do not have endurance – they race and train too hard’

Another reason for running slow is that it teaches you to make that pace more efficient. In the same way that you need to run at 10kmrace pace if you want to improve your 10km, it is necessary to learn and train the muscles you will use when running a marathon, ultra or Comrades. You can only do this if you practice the relevant race pace.

Then slow running over short distances is also a means of getting circulation and recovery from harder sessions without adding to previous muscle damage. In all 70-90% of your training will be in the slow range and that can be even higher for the complete novice.

But here is the pay-off: running slow develops the endurance capacity substantially and for any race longer than 3 minutes this will assure you of better results. As we turn the year there becomes a greater focus onincreasing the distance of runs and weekly mileage: do not make the mistake of thinking this has to be done at a fast pace. Going gently may initially require great discipline, but the benefits come the race day will far outstrip the result if you make the training too fast!

Start your race conservatively:
Every good race is run with negatives splits!

This may seem a sweeping statement but it's something that's vital to appreciate if you are to turn the benefits of training into race performance.

The reality is that the winners of most record – breaking performances run the second half of an event faster than the first, and if the time is not faster then you can be assured the effort over the last section is higher than the initial effort. In other words if the second half of a course is considerably hillier than the firstsection the time may not be faster but the effort expended on that section will be greater.

This links again to the need for the primary energy source in distance races to be fat burning. The more conservative the start the greater the percentage of fat burning and the less reliance on carbohydrate: Sparing carbohydrate early allows you to use it later in the race, and then it has a more dramatic effect on your finishing time and position. Remember that passing people late in a race, or carving seconds off your running pace in the last quarter brings an additional psychological boost which ups your performance even further.

So as we pass into 2012 don't go for elaborate runningresolutions, simply adopt this handful of principles to your training and racing and rest assured of better results at all distances you choose to race... And whatever you do Have a Happy Hogmanay!

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