The Middle Ground



  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭

    Me and PRF have talked a lot about experience versus running age...and also a lot about 6 years to reach any sort of peak idea. So far  think we have come to no conclusions except that if you enjoy the running then keep doing it even if your pbs are now out of reach!

    However, PRF is expecting to break his 18 year old pbs in the next few years image

    And I am hoping at some point in the next 5 to beat his wava % image

  • Curly - am I right in believing that PRF had a period out of running though and have not been running consistently for those 18 years?

    Zion - I've run consistently for 12 years.  However, I did not start training properly until 2005, so 5 years taking it more seriously.  Although I think the years before taking it seriously were kind of my base years if you like, when I would run for hours at a slow (ish) pace and very rarely did a taper.  I was never scientific over my running, still not, to tell the truth, but when I started to come on RW I saw there was a different side to running the more competitive side and wanted a bit of it!

    So although I'm 46 and have done most probably as good as I can over the longer distances, as that's what I trained for, I still believe I can achieve a few pbs over the shorter distances.  I also still believe I can run sub 3 for the marthon again with the right build up that keeps me injury and illness free - and there for me lies the barrier as I do now pick up more illness than I used to!

  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭

    Yep indeed - not sure of the exact time (we met as he was getting back into it again), he wasnt kind to himself during that time though - 4 stone overweight, working too hard, no exercise etc etc - hes been back at running about 2 years now and is back at a decent level but still a long way off the pbs image

  • Zion wrote (see)

    ......... that you can only expect to improve for 10 years when training optimally.

    Where did you read this?

    Its a good example of a message getting mangled in the telling.

    You'll be glad to hear that it is not only inaccurate, it is simply wrong. The actual reality is that you havent got a cat in hell's chance of reaching your absolute peak in any less than 10 years, even if training optimally, a completely different thing. It may, and usually does, take 20-25 years or more.

    Have a think about when these people reached their 'peak' and how old they were at the time and how many years they had been training by this point? Paula Radcliffe (min 20 years if based on marathon WR), Haile Gebresellassie (Still hoping to break more world records after 30 years of running), Carlos Lopez (broke marathon WR after 25 years running).

    And these people trained to what you might call professional standards from an early age and yet they still didnt get to a peak in anything like 10 years.

    Most of us dont get anywhere near training optimally anyway and getting ten years consistent optimal training under your belt is quite a task. So for many mortals a peak could easily be achieved after 30-40 years of running as experience and knowledge work to offset any physical decline (which is now seen as a lot slower than used to be believed).

    Where people often go wrong is to think they have 'peaked' when, in fact, they are more probably either undertrained or overtrained. Undertraining is often due to placing artificial limits on what workloads are possible and overtraining is often due to thinking that to get better must involve digging deeper and working harder when the body is already in need of some 'fallow' time. Just like everything else in nature running training requires cycles or seasons to allow for replenishment.

  • Hilly wrote (see)

    Curly - am I right in believing that PRF had a period out of running though and have not been running consistently for those 18 years?


    In fact 18 months ago I was back to complete beginner status (only with a bit of muscle memory image). It took about 3 months to build back up to actually being able to complete a continuous 10K run and even then it took 1:14. image

    One thing I swear by though is to let improvement happen rather than trying to force it. As a result, even from that lowly starting point 18 months ago, with lots of excess weight, I have had no injuries or illnesses that necessitated more than one day's rest.

    Right now I'm probably about 10% away from PBs with about 10% body weight still to lose so the weight loss itself will hopefully put me somewhere in the region of 33:00 10K and 2:45 marathon on about 3 years training. That is when it will start getting fun exploring what consistent training beyond that can achieve, especially because I'll then be in the next coffin dodger category at 45-49! image

  • Mr VMr V ✭✭✭
    I’m always surprised when I check race results to see how many winners seem to be in their 40’s. It certainly seems ages doesn’t seem to catch up with runners until much later than this. What are people’s opinions on how long the initial rapid improvement as a new (ish) runner lasts before it starts to get harder to get PBs? I’ve been running for about 2 years (with a 5 month stint spent injured) and still pretty much expect a PB every race. I’m currently knocking about 2:30/3:00 minutes off my 10k time every 6 months – but I’m guessing this rate of improvement won’t last forever!
  • Interesting discussion about age and improvement. I instinctively agree with prf's views  - which echo those of my coach. It takes a long time to reach one's peak.

    As prf suggests, many of the top professionals have been training from an early age and have taken longer than ten years to peak.

    But what happens if one doesn't start training until later - or MUCH later in life? It's heartening to realise one still has years of improvement ahead - but not so great to have to factor in the longer amount of time needed for recovery, unavoidable aging processes that make it more difficult to maintain muscle and cv fitness... I could go on.

    I didn't start running at all 'til my early fifties and have no athletic background to call on. I've learnt that most of the women at the sharp end of vet's sprinting have been in athletics since they were girls. They may have taken a break for many years  - but the skills and movement patterns they learnt are still there. My coach keeps telling me it's still 'early days' for me. But it's hard to be patient as I get nearer and nearer my bleedin bus pass.
  • sharkie wrote (see)
     But it's hard to be patient as I get nearer and nearer my bleedin bus pass.

    At least it will get cheaper to go to the meets ! image

    There are many reasons why performances can be maintained and/or improved upon much later than a lot of people imagine. Another couple to consider:

    a) The longer that you have been running the less effort it becomes mentally. In the early days there is far too much stress associated with, what are really irrelevant, ups and downs in training/racing. Due to what is, in effect, a process of NLP it becomes automatic to shrug your shoulders to an off day and move on to the next target with a smile....... image

    b) The rewards for training actually get greater with age when assessed against peers in the general population. In other words, a 50 year old distance runner will be a larger percentage fitter than an 'average' 50 year old than a 20 year old distance runner will be compared to an 'average' 20 year old.

  • My goodness lots to comment on here!!!

    Firstly Hilly, wow you are a fast lady!! Really hope you are able to break through that barrier. Its is very hard when the mind is willing but the body doesn't play ball. Hope your change of focus brings rewards. Will watch with interest, especially being the same age but sadly not of the same abilityimage

    Agree totally that ultimately running should be about enjoyment and each person will have different goals. When I first came back to running after a break of just over a year and a half it was more a desire to run than anything else. However once I realised how quickly I was progressing the old desire for pbs returned and I decided to try and train more effectively. Its funny my highest wava has been from this period of running yet it is the pbs I desire. How do other people view wavas versus pbs?

    prf I have been racking my brain where I read the 10 year rule but will have to have a search. Definitely come across it on more than one occasion. Totally agree that when you look at some of the greats it doesn't seem to ring true but a bit of me doesn't look at them in the same way. I know a lot of people who have run for a lot of years and it seems they all reach a point of nil returns and feel very much like BR. Running takes on a new meaning and they are just happy to hold on to what they've got. Now this could quite possibly be a loss of desire to train hard rather than not actually being able to improve which is one of the reasons I posted my question to Hilly.

  • My previous post looks mildly whingy. I do need to be patient and believe my coach that I am getting stronger and faster all the time. All the women at the top of the ranking are inexorably getting slower year by year and I'm getting quicker. It's all there in black and white on the Power of 10 site. And grey, pink and blue to be strictly correct.

    So, yeah, age no barrier  - you just have to be intelligent about your training.
  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭

    I like the age question, and how long can you go on improving.  It has been statistically shown that fast twitch fibres become slow twitch over long periods of endurance training, and the method has been hypothesised.  I wait on the study that takes biopsies of a distance runner's leg muscles once a week for 10 years...  Anyway, trained endurance athletes over many years develop larger proportions of slow twitch to fast twitch fibres in spite of genetic propensity (McArdle, Katch and Katch, Exercise Physiology, Williams & Wilkins, 1994).  Rest from endurance activity results in the fibres reverting to a fast twitch state, and again it is hypothesised that the default state of fibres is actually fast twitch, so all we're generally doing is flying in the face of nature!  No wonder it's such hard work!! image

    Of course, to perform at your peak you need both types of fibre, for pretty much any distance, though not so sure about ultras.  Fast twitch adaptations aid in the breakdown of lactic acid in the muscle, enhancing endurance, so the optimum training would be reaching a point of balance of trained muscle fibres specific to your body, mind, age, and racing distance.  Age here, because past a certain age the number of muscle fibres begins to reduce, so that's when your peak potential is past.  But if your racing peak didn't coincide with the peak potential, then there may still be faster times in you yet compared to when you were younger.  And the warning here is that you can go too far, and train for so long that fast times are beyond you, and a long break may benefit your speed and times.  [The curse of the Tarahumara, for whom marathons are too short!]

    Anyway, there's so much to learn that the fun is in the experimentation, regardless of your age!  And PBs will go on the better you get at understanding how you need to train and for what.  I'm hoping that when I can't get PBs anymore, I'll be able to look back and say that at the time I got them I was the best I could be! image

  • MoraghanMoraghan ✭✭✭

    I still dislike all of my PBs and I am going to break them all (apart from my 100m time) - some I'd go as far as saying I'm ashamed of.  That's essentially what drives me at the moment. 

    I definitely feel that, whatever your age, you can't walk around with these artificial limits in your mind as to what you can do.  If you feel that you have peaked then it would seem you are more or less guaranteeing that you never PB again.  I still think I can break the over 40s 800m world record, even though I'm miles away - but I know how I'm going to get there and the workouts I'll need to be doing.

    I liked PRF's post.  I would also say that if you meet long term plateaus that you to try different things.  It's very difficult to break out of training habits or being fixated on particular distances year in, year out.  Once the PBs get harder to come by the body is best served by different inputs and changing stimuli. 

    I've seen it in tennis and we are seeing it in running.  The power of 10 rankings are highly motivating - to see how you stack up and aiming for improving your position every year - if it is solely restricted to improvement in your age group it doesn't matter.

  • BR - do you envisage training for a further marathon pb attempt in the future? Is your change in focus temporary?

    I am finding todays discussion extremely interesting. I am 38 and have been running for approximately 4 years although my training focus has ony ever been on marathons. I have just decided to switch my autumn training plans from running the Abingdon marathon to some shorter distance racing (mainly 10 mile and half marathon efforts) I am quite excited to see what specific shorter distance training will do to my times. However I must admit that, whilst I try not to put 'age related' limits on my performance potential, a small part of me is thinking that I had better do this now while there is a still a bit of speed in my legs!

    I agree with Moraghan, I dislike all of my pb's and my 10k pb I am ashamed of (although I haven't raced a 10k of any description never mind flat for almost 3 years!) I also still keep thinking/believing that I will suddenly find some breakthrough training which will start knocking minutes at a time off my pb's, just like when I first started running.

    Does anyone else enjoy the training more than the racing itself? Or is that just me?

  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭

    I don't enjoy the training sometimes, and I can't remember a half-marathon I've enjoyed, though I have enjoyed the odd 10k.  Not 5k, too fast.  There have been moments which have been worth everything though!  Having a guy in your sights for 6 miles and then passing on the promenade and keeping him behind for the last 4 miles.  Getting the official time and realising you've broken your PB without specifically training for it.  Last Sunday's training was too hot and too steep, but it had moments of sublime beauty where I found myself amongst trees and streams that I'd never discovered before, and the social surprise of meeting a group of mountain bikers around a trig point and talking hill training for a few restful minutes.

    I really don't think I'm cut out to be a runner, but I'm that goddamned competitive I have to do well at it!  So I enjoy it when I do, of course.  But to do well I have to drive myself, and that sometimes means training in spite of whether it's enjoyable.  Ironic, huh?  Being a mad science and stats person I get huge satisfaction out of seeing the curves on the graphs post-training, not so much out of the training itself... image

    Foolishly, I've bought into something which has years of improvement ahead.  I could have just joined a Sunday League footie team...

  • Some excellent and interesting points made today...

    Thanks Zion, although in reality I'd be classed as a good standard club runner for my ageimage 

    Like Moraghan and Sue C, I too dislike some of my pbs although others I'm very proud of.  I'm actually proud of many of my achievements in the last 5 years.  I came from being a 20 a day smoker, who had a collapsed lung in my 30s to breaking 3 hours in the marathon in my early 40s.  It goes to show that intelligent training, hard work and patience can pay off.  

    The pbs I don't like I'm trying to do something about, which is giving me a little change of focus for a while.  A change of focus is always a good idea when the times are not going where you want them to go!  I did 800m for the first time since a child last summer and surprisingly enjoyed it, although saying I enjoyed it might be pushing the truth a littleimage  I did no specific training for it and didn't do too bad, so it gave me the confidence to try it again and realise I could be quite good if I trained for it.  So when I get fed up with distance running I might concentrate more on vets track races.  But at present I've still got some demons on the road to work on.

    Train hard, train smartimage

  • Mr VMr V ✭✭✭

    Ratzer I’m with you a little bit in that I don’t always enjoy training. There are times when I really don’t want to head out the door or when I fell heavy legged and tired and just want to get it done and out the way. Having said that I’m always pleased with myself when I’ve completed a run that I really didn’t want to do. And the times where I do enjoy it outnumber those where I don’t.

     In terms of racing I like the build up and the looking forward to a race and I like the feel good feeling you get afterwards and discussing how it went etc. But the actual racing itself I find fairly unpleasant. But I like getting faster and hitting PBs so I have to do it! I find some of my favourite runs are the faster club runs where you push yourself  with people of a similar pace. I always feel a good sense of camaraderie (if that’s the right word!) and really like the sensation of going fast without the pain of being flat out racing.

  • I was just reading on Kaysdee's thread about the hurt at the end of a marathon and it got me thinking about my marathons.  I've had plenty where the last few miles have felt hellish and a couple where i've had to get medical attention at the end, but when I did my pb and when I did 3:06 I remember 'flying' over the last few miles.  I remember the feeling of strengh, not pain, it was an amazing feeling!  I think the difference with those 2 marathons was definitely the training.  I had been running some really high mile weeks and my recovery rate at the time was excellent.  In fact marathons since I've not put in the same level of training, so I think what you do in training and of course the pacing on the day will determine how you feel in those final miles...discussimage
  • The motivation factor is a big element in why potentials arent generally achieved.

    It is simple when on an upward curve, there is no problem finding motivation when another PB is on the horizon.

    However, the stage that is a little more difficult to deal with, when encountered for the first time, is when you feel as though you have trained as hard, and as intelligently, as you possibly can and have reached a plateau. You know that, logically, resting may well be the correct action but, at the same time, you dont want to lose the hard earned fitness from the months and years of training.

    This is where overtraining comes from because the backing off doesnt occur until it is forced upon you somehow through burnout.

    There is also a huge lack of appreciation of what you are actually getting from your running in terms of fitness and enjoyment that isnt necessarily linked to being at your very peak.

    I really enjoy my easy runs between hard sessions because I feel as though I have 'earned' them. Equally, on a longer timeframe, having a few easy weeks is reward for the hard marathon build ups.

    I dare say that if you looked on an even longer timeframe an optimal way to arrange training would probably be to have 2 hard years followed by 1 easy year that has nothing but low mileage/easy running to get full rejuvenation and motivational hungriness back.

    Losing fitness permanently is almost impossible, you can get most of it back pretty quickly whatever level you were at previously. A couple of examples of people who 'retired' from running years ago and I've noticed reappearing in local races recently and are already operating at levels that a lot of people will never get to:

    1. Carl Thackery (47) - Disappeared from the scene in 1998 and has now popped up with a 31:48 10K and a 71:38 HM on what appears to be just a few months training after a decade of 'rest'. Okay, he was rather good in his time (local Barnsley folklore suggests he broke the half marathon world record in a local road race) but it just shows how much fitness can be regained relatively quickly.

    2. Dave Lewis (48) - Started racing at least 34 years ago and 'retired' in 1992. As far as I know he still holds the British U23 5K record when he beat the 5000m world record holder, Dave Moorcroft by 7 seconds in Edinburgh. I noticed that he has just started appearing at Heaton Park parkrun, which he does most weeks - some weeks he runs around with family members, the others he wins in about 17 minutes. You have to wonder how good he could become again if he put his mind to it.......

    I'm convinced that you can use your motivation in the same way you can use your appetite to get the right nutrition ie if your motivation is waning it is a signal to ease off until the hungriness comes back.

  • SueC - temporary.  In fact if you would like to offload your Abingdon number...
  • Hilly, I think my experiences on Sunday were mainly the heat and the fact it was supposed to be at training pace, oops! The pace ended up here nor there in the end. Not true easy, but not really raced/pushed. Techincally it was only a minute off my pb (though I consider that fairly soft). I've only done 4, but I've yet to finish a marathon strongly. I've read that it takes you around 5 marathons to begin to get used to them! The funny thing is I was going fine until I deliberately slowed down. I think once you mentally "check out", the experience feels worse than it is.

    It does give me great encouragement that Abingdon will be different and that I'll be able to tackle the last few miles and race them rather than hang on. I'll be better trained, I won't be doing a marathon the previous month, properly tapered etc. As much as I want to do it, there is also the aspect that I'm refocusing to other distances next year, so can already feel the mental relief.

    I did finish last week's half as you described though and it was fantastic. I so needed it. I've pb'd practically all year at the distances I've tackled, but they've all felt really hard and hollow. This one felt like it was meant to be. I could do with more races like that... I had a bad summer last year where I felt like I was making no progress and then was hampered by injury. There is no doubt in my mind that a great performance comes from the body and the spirit.

  • prf still can't find the article I'm looking for but have found a couple of similar links.

    Glad I didn't see the 5 year window first!!!

  • BR - happy to offload a number. I think it is a reasonably simple process having had a quick scan of the Abingdon website. Please feel free to mail me when you have made a definite decision and we can go from there.

    Picking up on the point that Hilly made, I would suggest that pacing a marathon correctly plays a bigger part in feeling strong during the last 6 miles than we might think. You might have done everything right in terms of training for you and had a perfect build up but going out too quickly negates all that hard work. I think the race calculators possibly do no favours in this regard (they seem rather optimistic in the main) and a degree of brutal honesty about targets from the individual will help no end. Are most runners really prepared to do that though?

    PRF - I love the recovery runs during a hard training period. I need the mental 'switch off'. I have particularly enjoyed the last few weeks in terms of recovery from the marathon. Running with no focus and simply to enjoy has renewed my appetite for hard training and specific targets. I have earned a Brownie point or two from the family aswell!

  • Zion wrote (see)

    prf still can't find the article I'm looking for but have found a couple of similar links.

    Glad I didn't see the 5 year window first!!!

    Even in that second article, Richard Nerurkar mentions that it was only after he had been training seriously for 15 years that he realised he had the chance to be really good.

    So, relax.... we've all got loads of years left yet! imageimage

    Sue - The 'easy' runs appeal to my laziness! image

    Hilly - You're right that it feels amazing to feel strong in the last section of  a marathon, the effect is multiplied by the fact that even if you're just holding your pace you are usually flying past people who are going backwards. I think you can pretty much guarantee such a scenario by backing off about 15 minutes from the time you actually feel capable of, but of course you're not going to do that so you're always trying to be just on the right side of not pushing too hard for the training that you've got in the bank - the never ending fascination of the marathon!!!

  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭

    Really annoyed to find out that my 2:45ish Sunday run was only 13 miles!

    Ok, it was hot, and humid, and ok, I did go about a third of a mile up and another third down that don't get counted, but I really didn't think I'd done less than a Half!

    parkrunfan wrote (see)

    So, relax.... we've all got loads of years left yet! imageimage

    This is now sustaining me in my minute of darkness.
  • I'm sure Pythagoras wouldnt mind you borrowing his theorem to calculate yourself an extra few tenths of a mile to get you over the half! image
  • Kaysdee - I'm sure you're decision to slow down was the right one in the circumstances and will allow better and quicker recovery.  I've done 2 marathons as training runs, White Peak in 3:12 and Wolverhampton in 3:11 and found that after both there was no break in training although I did take the next few days easy as marathons even at training pace take it out of one! 

    I'm not sure about the 5 marathons before getting used to them.  I guess it depends on the person and maybe the level of that runner.  For instance elite athletes don't seem to take 5 attempts before getting used to them, yet some ordinary runners may do so.  I 'played' around with them for a few years before deciding to train properly for them.  My first one was in 3:36 and I did several around that level until I got the must get better bug caught from the RW forumimage

    Up and out just after 6 this morning, but felt half asleep for the first mile. 

  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭

    Hilly - when I do those early runs I have to mentally 'check' I am wearing my clothes - always have a fear of going in underwear for some reason image

    Hope it was a good one anyway image

  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭


    Curly, I'd physically check, just in case!  Or simply pretend that you're an elite athlete.  Not sure that women's athletic clothing can get much more minimalist!!  (Where'd you put the gels, and the toilet paper, and the jelly beans...)

    Cheers, prf, I'm sure the slopes added but mainly proof that I've got a lot more hills to run if I'm going to keep pace when knackered!

    I read your junk miles answer (No pain thread) with interest, because my mate is training for the mara with me and wants to know whether I'm encouraging him to do junk miles by just adding to his mileage instead of doing his hard pace sessions (it's taken me six months so far to get him to slow down on easy runs).  I figured that there can easily be junk 'hard' miles, for instance doing two hard days in a row where you are not able to recover from the first (I know that many experienced athletes do consecutive hard days).  By doing the second without allowing recovery you effectively invalidate any gains from the first thus making them junk miles.  Also I was interested to read about the 'Goldilocks Zone' for training.  What this article calls 'No man's land'.  I guess miles in there are junk miles too!

  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭

    Ratzer - thats interesting...

    One of my many tests a while back was back to back hard days (parkrun, LSR, intervals, tempo) - actually in terms of improvements for me it massive, but I also expect that this was part of getting back on the curve after being out ill/injured for 10 weeks...

  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭

    Curly, I think I'd gauge hard sessions differently.  A hill session might be hard to recover from so don't follow with intervals, but parkrun followed the next day by LSR is two completely different exercises if you keep all the LSR easy.  So I wouldn't be afraid to back up hard sessions that have different effects and impacts (except where lactate accumulated continuously and needed to be recovered from).  Some hill sessions are bodyweight training for strength, so you need the next day to recovery, but recovery can be something that doesn't impact the same muscles preventing their recovery.

    So, if you can get the consecutive sessions spot on in terms of complementarity, you can back up many hard sessions and see big improvements, as long as you still take decent breaks to flush the blood lactate.

    I'd be interested to see a log of what you actually did.  It might be very helpful!

Sign In or Register to comment.