by Max Jones

first published in July 1996 Valley Striders News

In London this year I completed my 75th marathon in 15 years (after my 75th different pre-marathon training plan!). This was unique, though, because Iíd lost, through a bout of sciatica, five whole weeks at the beginning of the 13-week countdown - see Coachís Column October í95, item 2 for the set-back that caused, i.e. at least 40 miles/week training lost, equalling an addition of 3 minutes/wk, 15 minutes in total, to my projected race time - so I had only 8 weeks in which to recover the position. I had been looking for 3:15 again to defend my title as first M65 last year (not that London, Abbey Dash, etc,etc recognise the intermediate age-groups : Iím counting the weeks until Iím 70 and I can go pot-hunting again), but, by the end of February, and no training being done, I was seriously considering walking London with Les Smith, the Portland (Oregon) Race Director : he did that last year to keep 88 year-old Mavis Lindgren company and finished last in 9:02 (partly because, being right at the back of the field and all the spectators and marshals having gone home, he forgot to turn right on to Tower Bridge at 12 miles and they walked half a mile out of their way before realising they were lost as well as last!)

When I was writing the Coachís Column for last Januaryís V.S. News, the one about the huge advantage to be gained by getting your resting pulse rate down from, say, 44 to 40 by (unspecified) "proper training", I hadnít elaborated on what that might mean because Iíd forgotten how and when I had got my RPR down to 32. It was in 1984 - Iíd been running competitively again for three years by then - and my low 40ís RPR had been achieved, my training diary reminds me, by around 50 miles/wk of 8-12 mile runs, relatively fast, and a few short sprints. In the following three months, I had added fast runs at intermediate distances of 4 to 8 miles, which, I now guess, would have driven my training pulse rate well up into the 160s/170s (but I didnít have a heart rate monitor then).

So, I decided for the last two months before London to make every training session a tough one, while taking care, of course, not to injure myself again. For feeding into the calculations for predicting my London time - see Oct í95 C.C., item 9 - I counted not only the short hill and speed sessions but also all the non-stop longer runs which had been at a pace 4%-8% quicker than the marathon rate I thought I needed to be first M65 (i.e. 7:30 miling / 3:15 race time). Adding those 7 "new" sessions to the 16 "old" hills and sprints improved the discount rate from 5.8% to 10.2% : applying that to the handicaps of old age (2hrs + 69 (age in) minutes = 3:09) and low training mileage (add 55-27=28 minutes) reduced the forecast time from 3:37 to 3:15. Spot on!

Unhappily, I was also 4 minutes overweight - 2lbs per inch of height minus only 1lb instead of the par minus 5lbs - and that extra flab made the second half of London a mite difficult. So the revised expectation on the day was 3:19 and I ran it in 3:20:17. And 1st M65 after all.

So the mid-distance training blasts paid off. Not only arithmetically, as calculated above, but, more importantly, physically too by increasing my heartís stroke volume to deliver more oxygen when racing. And, hence, my resting pulse rate, 62 after my 5 weeks "resting" to the end of February, was down to 42 in London week. 20 down, 10 to go!

Moving on from the particular to the general, I offer these recommendations to anyone who is looking for a best-ever time in a race in the months ahead. With the October í95 C.C. Top Ten Rules and calculator at the ready:

As a guide, try to run/race half your intended target distance around 4% to 5% faster than your intended target race pace; a quarter of the target distance at 8% to 10% faster. So, if you want to run a 7 minute mile / 3:03 marathon, aim to run a half marathon in 87:30 (i.e. pace of 6:40/mile = 7min - 4.8%) or a 10k in 39:45 (6:24 pace = 7min - 8.5%). For a 6 minute mile / 2:37 marathon, the shorter distance clockings would be 75:30 for the half and 34:10 for the 10k. If youíre not that interested in running a marathon, but you would like to get down to 5:30 pace / 34 minutes for 10k, aim to run 3 miles in 15:45 or a single mile in 5 minutes (equivalent to mile reps in around 5:08/5:10). To get below 40 minutes for 10k, go for 3 miles in 18:30, an individual mile in 5:50, or mile reps in around 6:02/6:05).

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