2016 Review, Number Crunching and looking ahead to 2017

It’s at this stage of the year that I normally post my ‘annual Oscars’. And, as a creature of habits, here we go again this year! But, because I did an analysis a while back and never got round to posting it, I thought I’d also do a bit of number crunching and see where that takes me in terms of planning for 2017.

oscarSo, drumroll, my 2016 Oscars are…

Best performance: Frankfurt Marathon (12 months in waiting…)

Wettest race ever: Cardiff Half Marathon World Champs

Most scenic country: Faroe Islands Half Marathon

Stupidly hardest: RedBull Steeplechase Fell Race

Sleepiest: Zurich New Year Marathon

Most frustrating 0.009%: London Marathon

Et voila – let’s be honest, I could probably find a theme for each race but it defeats the purpose even more at this point!

frankfurt-marathon-october-2016-simon-messenger-alex-hobley-finishersMy biggest ‘breakthrough’ in terms of milestones was getting under 80 minutes in Cardiff for the half marathon, closely followed I suppose by me improving my marathon time by just over a minute to 2h52 in Frankfurt. Being honest however, the latter didn’t feel so much like a milestone – more of a relief really! Plus, it’s not a round number so, you know, it doesn’t really count…

Otherwise, well, it’s been a mixed year and emotions have varied from the frustration at not being as fast as I’d hoped to the satisfaction at pushing through hard sessions to the despondency after yet another performance showing no improvement to the relief of achieving long-held targets.

Going around Valand Park with Pippa in her 10k

Not sure I could say I’ve reached any ‘elation’ levels this year but the one thing I’ve definitely enjoyed is doing more Sunday morning long runs with clubmates – 30km runs along the same routes can get a bit tedious by yourself! Thankfully, I’m still a long way away from this lot who did a 24 hour race (~100 miles) around our 400m training track. Do you start questioning your life choices after the 167th lap or the 326th? WTF.

I’ve tried a few additional ways of improving my core strength and flexibility (and, the plan was, my performances) this year: more gym work (gave up after a few months – SO dull), hot yoga (gave up on that one too after a few months – too far away from home and didn’t seem to have much impact) and even altitude training (that one was quite good actually … but at almost £20 a pop, it’s not sustainable!). Whichever method I pick, the most important thing is consistency that has certainly lacked by the bucket load. Next year, maybe…

Number Crunching

So, down to number crunching. I’d already looked at this a few months ago but let’s revisit briefly. Looking at my performances in 2016 vs 2015, it’s fair to say progression has been … minimal. This is probably as close as it gets to perfectly defining a runner’s plateau:

2015 2016 Change
800m 2m16 2m17 + 0.74%
1,500m 4m40 4m39 – 0.36%
3,000m 9m53 9m45 – 1.35%
5,000m 16m49 17m03 + 1.39%
10,000m 36m10 36m25 + 0.69%
Half Marathon 80m07 79m49 – 0.37%
Marathon 2h53m49 2h52m44 – 0.62%

 Wow, breakthroughs galore, I know…

General ‘working harder’ aside, I wondered if anything had changed more deeply over the past few years since I started running: i.e. aside from a general improvement, have I got better at the shorter distances relative to the longer ones or vice versa? Am I training wrongly? Ultimately, I’d take any improvement over any distance but the satisfaction is higher the longer the event and, deep down, those are my real targets.

To have a look at this, I compared my annual personal bests in 5k, 10k, half marathons and marathons (I don’t really care about anything shorter than that) and looked at the annual ratio by dividing one time in minutes by the other. If the Marathon/5k ratio went down, it would mean that my marathon times were improving less quickly than my 5k times, and vice versa if it went up.


And, as you can see, it’s…pretty much horizontal in each distance. So I’m improving fairly consistently, which I guess is a good thing! Basically, when I’ve improved my shorter distances performance, I’ve improved my longer distances performances by exactly the same margin. My Marathon to 5k ratio is 10.1, my Marathon to 10k is 4.73 and my Marathon to HM is 2.15. However, are these ratios right? I could just be consistently shit at 5ks!

One book will tell you one thing, one book will tell you another so I had a look at what some of my similar/faster marathon clubmates’ PB ratios are (unless they achieved one of those PBs yonks ago). Oh, and I also threw Mo Farah in there.


And, well, I’m bang in the middle. The only real outliers are Alex – bigger Marathon/5k ratio – who is known to be a speedy Gonzalez over shorter distances and Joffah – lower Marathon/5k ratio – who is known to only have one (pretty damn fast) speed, whether it’s over 800m or 50km.

Overall, I suppose the conclusion I can draw from this is that I shouldn’t be worried about being faster/slower in any specific distance: broadly speaking, my performances over each distance are what they should be for my standard of running. I basically just need to get better and faster at everything, which is exactly the outcome  I was looking for…

Oh, also, the person I’m closest to in terms of ratios is actually Mo Farah. Just saying …

So, the answer is…

chicken-and-eggChicken and eggs. No, I’m not giving up the vegan diet. But it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation here: from talking to better runners, I need to run more miles to get better at shorter and longer distances and do fast short intervals at training to reap the rewards over marathons. The key for this this last point however is that I need to increase the volume in those sessions: 12x400m is great for 3,000m races but (rather horrifically) 12x1km is what I should really be doing.

Truthfully, I think part of the issue has also been that my training is fairly unfocused: as demonstrated above, I will run pretty much anything (bar the activity which only sadomasochists and maniacs do: cross-country).

What I really need is to work out which are my target races and distances for the year and work towards them. Right now, I’m thinking:

  • Target 78 minutes in a Spring Half Marathon
  • Target sub 2h50 in an Autumn Marathon

Marginal improvements but, let’s face it, I want to have a life outside of running too. Hopefully some sensible training and fewer junk miles will get me near there.

Let’s revisit in 12 months’ time!

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