Coach's Column - October 1997


from Max Jones

(photo by Steve Fritz)

It was 10 years ago. I had just turned 60; I had only discovered Veteran Athletics three years prior to that, too late to make any impression in the M55 category, let alone the M50; I had decided to go pot-hunting. I ran 10 marathons that year : I finished 1st M60 in half of them, 2nd in another three, and my lowest position in the age category, albeit my second fastest time (3:02:02), was 5th in the WAVA World Championships down in Melbourne Australia (the week after that I ran 3:10 in the Honolulu Marathon, second to Keizo Yamada's 3:05 : he had won the Boston Marathon in 1953 in 2:18:51, but that's a story for another day). Then, in October 1988, I ran 3:00:56 in the Minneapolis/StPaul Twin Cities Marathon, running quicker than 2hours plus my age in minutes for the last time (as yet).

It was based on that splurge of activity, together with a detailed analysis of my training diary in the weeks prior to those races, that I began to formulate my Top Ten Indicators to probable race performance which, eventually, became the topic of the October 1995 Coach's Column in V.S. News. I didn't do any hill or tempo work in those days, other than racing, mainly, over Yorkshire's "undulating" roads, reasoning that injury would follow hills and intervals as surely as night follows day, but I did discover that I had to add a minute to my marathon time for every mile per week I averaged below 55mpw and for every mile per week I averaged above 60 mpw. When the courses were flat and the weather was kind, i.e. beyond Yorkshire's Immigration Control border points, I had run in the mid-80's percentage in the (not yet published in 1988) WAVA Age Graded Tables, equivalent to just under 2:30 for a man in his 20's.

New Zealand sheep farmer Derek Turnbull, though, six months older than I, had run the 1987 Adelaide Marathon in 2:38:45, the first M60 ever below 2:40. He had also run 2:15 or so for 800 metres and around 4:25 for 1500, as well as equally ludicrous times for 5k and 10k - I couldn't run one mile in 6:03, never mind 26 of them back to back - so I started doing hills and intervals and incorporating those (not injury provoking after all) workouts in the calculations. Hence I derived the 12% discount, i.e. 2:38:45 to 3:00:00 in the Top Ten.

I have been happy, all these 10 years, with these Rules of Thumb, Guiding Lights, Formulae, call them what you will, but for one tiny doubt. How come I could run the equivalent of a 2:29 Open Class marathon without any hills or tempo runs which, if I included them, would calculate to 2:11 if I factored in the 12% discount, with only 55 miles of training, whereas the real 2:11 marathoners were - and are even now - insisting that nothing less than 120 miles/week will suffice to run sub-5-minute miles for 26 miles and 385 yards?

I now know the answer. I'm right and they are wrong. Three articles in recent journals solve the puzzle: