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# Why are people trying to knock minutes off their PBs.

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Bit of a stream of concious thread here.

Why are so many people looking to knock 5mins or 15mins or any round number of minutes off their PBs? Even 30sec/min or any other random figure that's seemingly plucked from thin air.

Surely it is better to look at %age improvement rather than an absoulte.

Say for a 10:00/mile runner that gives a 10k/half time of 62:30/131:00. The next thing you see is help me get under an hour or under 2hours. It's an admirable target but what does it mean in real terms of training and effort?

For a 10:00/mile runner to get down to an hour that's 0:20/min off their pace. That's a 3.3% improvement. For an 8:00/mile to drop their pace by 20secs that's 4.1%. Doesn't sound a lot does it. It feels a lot!

They were just musings I was having this afternoon when out running and trying to 'feel' the differences in various paces between 8:00/mile and 10:00/mile  and the amount of extra effort I had to put in each time I stepped up 20secs a mile.

Any thoughts?

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Tim, competitive running is all about times, and benchmarks.

Yes, going sub this number of that number is an arbitrary notion, but it's the best way to look at it.

Imagine telling someone next race, "yes, I've improved by 2%", they'll look at you like a nutter,

If you're also musing about how can people casually say they want to drop 5,10,15mins from a pb, because that's a lot, well clearly it depends how slow they are to start with!

If someone runs a half marathon in 3hours, then clearly they can easily drop it by 15mins with more training.

There comes a natural point where we're all talking mere seconds of improvement though....

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Given that time is typically measures in hours, minutes and seconds, with 60 seconds making one minute and 60 minutes making one hour, this does not lend itself well to working in percentages.

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Indeed.

I'm thinking more about the amount of minutes being talked about with no regard to the proportion of time. Let's say someone wants to drop from 1:00:00 10k to a 50:00 10k. That's only 10mins which doesn't sound a lot. Even when you consider min/mile that's 9:36/mile down to 8:00/mile. It works out as a 16% improvement.

I'm not suggesting anyone thinks in terms of %ages but maybe should bear in mind the proportion improvement rather than just trying to knock a round number of minutes off.

Even knocking 15mins off a 4:30 marathon is a big ask.
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A lot of people seem to be fairly new to the more competitive side of running and are still finding it hard to gauge their full potential and current ability. In my first marathon my main aims were 1 getting round and 2 hopefully going under 4 hrs. What I didn't want to do is to try and smash it, end up blowing up at 18 miles and hating the whole thing. Once I knew I could get round (3.38) I knew I could easily go under 3.30 at my next attempt by a bit more training and just "going for it" a bit more. Which u did (3.19) which was 19 mins quicker.

It's pretty easy to knock lots of minutes off when you start it just gets harder as you go on. As I am now finding.

Also I think people deal in minutes as its very easy to visualise as we tend to run in minutes per mile.
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TimR wrote (see)
Indeed.

I'm thinking more about the amount of minutes being talked about with no regard to the proportion of time. Let's say someone wants to drop from 1:00:00 10k to a 50:00 10k. That's only 10mins which doesn't sound a lot. Even when you consider min/mile that's 9:36/mile down to 8:00/mile. It works out as a 16% improvement.

I'm not suggesting anyone thinks in terms of %ages but maybe should bear in mind the proportion improvement rather than just trying to knock a round number of minutes off.

Even knocking 15mins off a 4:30 marathon is a big ask.

I'm not sure I agree with you there.

With all due respect, a man of 20-40 with no big injury/handicaps doing 4:30 for a marathon, could comfortably take 15mins off by training harder and smarter.

I took 7mins off from my first half marathon to 2nd over 1 month.

So imagine doubling the distance, and having a bigger gap in between once used to the distance. Conclusion? Pretty easy to take 15mins off that kind of time for a man of 20-40 who's on an upward curve

15mins off a 3hour marathon? Much bigger job.

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Well it's pretty natural to look at round numbers for any kind of targets, but I don't see why that would necessarily lead people to unrealistic ones. I'd even argue that people do consider proportional improvements, because different amounts of improvement apply to different length races, e.g. 15 minute chunks for the marathon compared to 5 mins chunks for 10k - at least for those on a steep improvement curve.

Same with sprint events; I guess it's convenient that 10 seconds is a good benchmark for truly world class 100m runners but it's still abitrary to an extent and no one's going to accuse a runner with a pb of 10.03 of being a bit rubbish.

• Taking 15 minutes off my 3:30 marathon time felt like a big ask, but the target was a GFA place. It took two serious attempts over the course of a whole year. The second attempt was chasing down the final 90 seconds.
Taking 15 minutes off to go from 3:15 to 2:59 was a whole new world of focus, commitment, training, pain, repair, failed attempts, psychological coaching and eventually a case of having the balls to risk everything on a once in 6 months attempt.

Is it any wonder that I retired afterwards? There was no way on God's planet that I was going to be able to step up the training and commitment from there.

• Am I alone in thinking a man aged between 20 and 40 should be looking at a sub 3 hour marathon, (particulalry at the lower end of that age group) with the correct progessive training it should be achievable - my PB went from 3:16 to 2:56 in the space of 9 months and then down to 2:41 in the next 14 months -

• Impressive improvements there Grendel. But I'd say that marathon competence in the sub 3 hour region comes down to weight and genetics as well as decent training.

I'm guessing that you probably weigh somewhere between 10 and 11.5 stone? I'd take a punt at 10.5 stone.

Much bigger framed individuals will really struggle to meet sub 3 hour marathon times whatever their age/traing plan.

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Grendel you are not alone. I didn't take up running until 2009 when I was 32. Did Paris Marathon as part of a bet with a mate. Did that one in 3.38 and have now taken ruining more seriously and have got my PBs down to 3.07 and now aiming for sub 3. Funnily enough the harder I train the faster I go.
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People look for obvious targets don't they - climbing a mountain for example - not climbing 10% further up the mountain than they got last time.

• Grendel, depends on the man, his current level of conditioning, his history of exercise, his inherited ability to respond to training, and his desire to progress; all aside from following an effective training programme.

Someone who is a couch potato with no history of exercise until the age of 39 will find it slower to progress than say, Bradley Wiggins, who could, if he wanted to, I think, turn in a respectable marathon time with a limited amount of training.

But i do see your point.

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EKGO wrote (see)

This is precisely how we end up with silly rules such as the HSE arguments we know too well, people quote hearsay to expand their own personal viewpoint to the detriment of common sense and rational thinking, and all of a sudden thre epeople say it so it must be true.

Grendel3 wrote (see)

Am I alone in thinking a man aged between 20 and 40 should be looking at a sub 3 hour marathon, (particulalry at the lower end of that age group) with the correct progessive training it should be achievable - my PB went from 3:16 to 2:56 in the space of 9 months and then down to 2:41 in the next 14 months -

Sounds reasonable, although I'm not a fan generally of people who say x time, y time is possible just on age.

I think it waters down the achievement of thse who have hit the paces mentioned.

Having said that, anyone who hasn't matched my times is just plain lazy

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Are there WAVA tables for fat bastards?  2:43:52 at 12st 2lbs must be up there, surely?

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I'm trying to increase my VO2max by 14.22%.

• AgentGinger wrote (see)

Grendel, depends on the man, his current level of conditioning, his history of exercise, his inherited ability to respond to training, and his desire to progress; all aside from following an effective training programme.

Someone who is a couch potato with no history of exercise until the age of 39 will find it slower to progress than say, Bradley Wiggins, who could, if he wanted to, I think, turn in a respectable marathon time with a limited amount of training.

But i do see your point.

conversely the couch potato will probably have a far higher possibility of significantly improving times between first and second race than Bradley Wiggins would as you'd assume he'd give it a pretty good shot first time round.

so they could progress faster in terms of race times improving.

like startup companies claiming to be the fastest growing in their market sector.

when you start off at zero big improvements can be made.

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Grendel3 wrote (see)

Am I alone in thinking a man aged between 20 and 40 should be looking at a sub 3 hour marathon, (particulalry at the lower end of that age group) with the correct progessive training it should be achievable - my PB went from 3:16 to 2:56 in the space of 9 months and then down to 2:41 in the next 14 months -

Yes, it assumes a persons natural athletic ability is of a high standard. I'm 39 and I ran my first marathon aged 33 in 5:15. I completed my 8th marathon this April with a new PB of 3:49.

I made a huge jump in my first year of running, taking that 5:15 down to 4:16 on my second marathon, but it took me another five years to finally break the 4 hour mark for the first time. I trained hard for all my marathons. One that I cramped up in and cost me a sub 4. One I was injured during training so the time was never going to be at my best. Ther others saw a mix of new PB's or dissapointment, but still over the 4 hour mark.

If you start at 3:16 sub 3 may seem like anyone can get there. If you start at 5:15, then running a sub 3 seems like a rather huge step to take.

• Funny with Bradley Wiggins's name being mentioned. Lance Armstrong has done a few marathons, but his times haven't really reflected his world class cycling fitness.

• i thought his times were pretty good?

i wouldn't expect him to be straight in there challenging the kenyans at the head of the field.

• Not without a quick pharmaceutical stop halfway round anyway.

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skotty wrote (see)

i thought his times were pretty good?

i wouldn't expect him to be straight in there challenging the kenyans at the head of the field.

All relative I suppose.  He certainly got his times down to what would be considered pretty impressive in layman's terms, but I remember all the crap some people were spouting when he first announced his intention to run a marathon.  Oh, his VO2 max is 80-something ridiculous, therefore according to my chart he should be running about 2:01.  Sort of ignoring the fact that he weighed about 13 stone at the time and may not have managed to get 56,032 running miles in his legs.

• PhilPub wrote (see)

Are there WAVA tables for fat bastards?  2:43:52 at 12st 2lbs must be up there, surely?

How on earth could anyone who is THAT heavy do a 2:43  Surely 95%+

I'm a new, novice runner and recently entered the world of running events. Initially its very reasonable to target chunks off your PB's being on a steep curve of improvement. In addition  a lot of the published / online  plans would also encourage this - as a novice you tend to rely on them. I picked up a 1:45 plan not knowing how I would fair, did better, picked up a 1:30plan ...  Now I tend to think and plan myself, so wouldn't immediately plan on a 1:20

At some point you have to accept that smaller targets are going to be the norm. My half marathon is down to 1 or 2 mins improvement, my marathon hoping for a 10min improvement if I had a perfect day. Having more experience with the HM, I probably have thought through a realistic target in a way I'm not capable of with the marathon.

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PhilPub wrote (see)
skotty wrote (see)

i thought his times were pretty good?

i wouldn't expect him to be straight in there challenging the kenyans at the head of the field.

All relative I suppose.  He certainly got his times down to what would be considered pretty impressive in layman's terms, but I remember all the crap some people were spouting when he first announced his intention to run a marathon.  Oh, his VO2 max is 80-something ridiculous, therefore according to my chart he should be running about 2:01.  Sort of ignoring the fact that he weighed about 13 stone at the time and may not have managed to get 56,032 running miles in his legs.

I remember that thread. Idiots reckoning that he was capable of matching the top in the world, at a completely different sport, one that he'd hardly had any experience of.

His times showed how bonkers that was.

• skotty wrote (see)

i thought his times were pretty good?

i wouldn't expect him to be straight in there challenging the kenyans at the head of the field.

Just to echo what a few others have said. Yes his times would be considered excellent for an intermediate club level runner. But Armstrong was clearly a supreme world class athlete with a ridiculous VO2 max and a scarily low resting heart beat.

His times clearly indicate that cycling fitness doesn't quite transfer that well to running....not in an elite sense at least.

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Chasing times is just an easy way for others to relate to how you are doing and a measure of your success. Obviously age graded would be better but a lot of people don't understand it. There are also some times that are accepted as being "good" eg GFA for London or qualifying for Boston, sub 40 10k, sub 1:30 HM - next level would be sub 3, 35 min, 1:20 etc etc
• JN2 funny that, I don’t actually ascribe to the bigger frame argument. Taller, yes, bigger, no. I did my 2x sub 3’s at age 48. I was beaten by 2 seconds by James Cracknell who was carrying an extra 2” in height and 3 stone.

Millsy, well spotted on the training/speed relationship. Have you also spotted the less closely linked relationship? The older you get, the easier you get broken?

Phil Pub I’m totally with you there, with a minor exception. Only a runner would call a six footer at 12 stone 2lb a fat bastard!

EGGY, 5 hours on the feet is a bliddy long time and huge respect for anyone who does that. Be strong. You may not believe it but taking 15 minutes off your current marathon time is possible. And then the next 15. One colleague was a definite back of the pack and she’s run over 100 marathons now. I helped her run a pb4:30I think, but I’ll never be in her league, despite my focus on speed. Horses for courses.

Lance? He targeted Zero to sub 3 in one attempt. He needed two goes if I recall. He acknowledged that it was a tough challenge. Getting into the sub 3 club certainly gets a cachet with other “athletes”. I remain impressed with J Cracknell, Nell McAndrew and Tony Audenshaw. People who are allocated “celeb” stataus, yet just get on with proper training and JFDI. Their pbs speak volumes. A pleasure to be near you guys.