How to get half decent at running (and I have a long way to go)

After a weekend during which half a dozen club teammates achieved ridiculously fast times at the London Marathon (sub 2:45), I was wondering how far behind them I am, why and how far I need to go to get a little faster…

Rather than pester them all to understand their training regime and their background to running (which might take time and effort), I had a lazy look online for some profiles and training plans (admittedly, this was helped by my teammate Louis’ research on this subject too…)

Broadly speaking, sub 2:30 runners eat lots of nuts. They are also nuts. Undeniably. They are very committed to their sport and should maybe be committed too… And that’s where my string of feeble puns ends. This is a little extract from this blog:

What I did before breaking 2:30.

  • Started training at the age of 11 in 1984 and for 19 years had not missed more than 3 consecutive days of training.
  • Ran 16:38 in a 5 K at the age of 16.
  • Ran my first marathon at the age of 17 in 3:05:51. Improved it to 2:48:32 next year.
  • Never smoked or drank alcohol.
  • After joining the LDS Church at the age of 19, stopped drinking coffee, and caffeinated tea (black or green) in compliance with the Word of Wisdom.
  • Stopped eating sweats and fast food, and drinking soda pop at the age of 21.
  • Started running no less that 60 miles a week consistently at the age of 24.
  • Experimented with 90-100 mile weeks from time to time without much success.
  • Improved my 5 K to 15:55 at the age of 28.
  • Ran 2:33:20 in the Top of Utah Marathon at the age of 28.

Other than the fact that he is an incredible runner, I have to admit I can’t really recognise myself in too many of these comments, although there are a few below which I find easier to empathise with:

  • Eat a diet free of processed foods and full of natural ones. Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts. Fish once a week. Eat raw what tastes good raw, cook what does not the minimum needed to make it taste good.
  • Sleep at least 7 hours a day. Take a nap on top of it when possible.
  • Go to bed as early as possible, get up by 6 AM.

Although I’m not sure about the raw-food only diet. Or getting up at 6am.

So, with that in mind, I’ve drawn my own equivalent “what I did before breaking 3:00”

  • Avoided all forms of endurance running until I was 16
  • Stopped again from 18 to 23
  • “Ran” my first marathon aged 24 in 5:09 (!) on an average of 15-20 miles/week
  • Gave up running again until 27
  • Started running 20-30 mile weeks aged 27. Lost 15kg.
  • Improved 10k to sub-40 and marathon to 3h19 in first year
  • Joined a running club and began proper training plan/routine with intervals aged 28
  • Increased mileage to 30-40 miles/week
  • Really began focusing on diet and cutting out ‘crap food’ as much as possible aged 28
  • Improved 5k to 17:30, 10k to 36:10 and marathon to 3:00:21 aged 28
  • Started limiting meat and sugar intake to an absolute minimum aged 29
  • Reduced mileage a little to focus on quality miles rather than quantity of miles aged 29
  • Ran 2:53 in Rotterdam Marathon aged 29

Where do I go from here? Well, as numbers never lie, I did some highly scientific research which took me all the way back to the sweat and tears of Mathematics classes at high school. There’s even a coefficient of determination (r2)!!

So, based on this complex analysis which looks at how my marathon times have improved since I started running, I’m due to break the 2:30 mark in…November of this year!! Oops. No pressure then…

2.30 Target 2015

Because that sounds slightly terrifying, I’ll tweak my data (in a scientific manner, obviously) to exclude my first marathon and only include dates since I’ve actually trained to run. Using this somewhat kinder analysis, I’m due to break it in August 2016. Which still sounds…utterly unrealistic, in particular in 100 mile weeks and the lives of monks are what are required…

2.30 Target 2016


So, to answer my initial three questions:

How far behind am I?  Quite a long way. The margin is only 30 seconds/km but that’s probably a good few years’ worth of running which I’m missing.

Why?  Well, simply put, I’ve only been running for 2 and a bit years and, while I’ve never really been a fan of junk food, I’ve never really paid too close an eye to nutrition and diet until recently.

What do I need to do next? Run 100+ mile weeks, improve my cadence, lose a few more kilos, give up alcohol, sugar, meat, fat, friends, my wife (if I give up tea, I’m sure she’ll walk out)…. Easy peasy! I can unquestionably be annoyingly obsessive about various things so I don’t doubt that I’ll keep going on being careful with my nutrition. And, if my legs allow me to, I’ll increase my mileage as much as possible. However, let’s be honest… maybe I should just aim for 2:50 for the time being…


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