This week’s running – 11th to 17th of May 2015

OK, I'm not that busy

OK, I’m not that busy…

Another busy week, juggling training and racing.

4x 1600m at 10k pace

If 3x 1600m reps at 10k pace can produce a 10k PB, then 4x should lead to an even bigger PB, right?

I had feared this session all day, based solely on how much effort 3x reps took. The wind was howling during the warm-up jog to the reservoir, and I constantly tried to identify which direction it originated from to work out whether the out or return reps would be affected (turned out it was both).

3:58/km was the target and off I went for the first rep, feeling very positive. I barely broke a sweat and my breathing was nice and relaxed to hit target pace exactly.

After 90 seconds of recovery, off I trotted for the second rep. Aside from my legs feeling like jelly during the first 200m or so due to lactic acid, this rep also felt pretty damn good.

The third rep wasn’t so great and the focus and attention required got to me with about 600m left to run, though I still managed to hit target pace.

Arguably, the fourth rep felt easier because it was the final one – you know the feeling when the mind loosens the reins because you’re almost there. I finished on a massive high and received a confidence boost ahead of Sunday’s Race for Wildlife 10k – a new 10k PB certainly looked like it was on the cards.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

The Way of the Runner

The Way of the Runner by Adharanand Finn

Adharanand Finn’s latest piece

Part running memoir, part travel log and part fish out of water culture lesson, below are a few of my thoughts having recently finished reading The Way of the Runner.

The author, Adharanand Finn, spent six months in the land of the rising sun to try and get to the bottom of why there is such running depth throughout the nation compared to other countries around the world. Additionally, he also sought to discover why Japan is not a bigger threat to the East-African dominance despite the depth of talent available.

The Japanese are seemingly running mad; or to be more precise, they’re “ekiden” mad. Ekiden are a series of long distance road relay races that have gripped the nation for decades. The best way to describe the event is somebody went and took solo long distance running and turned it into a team sport. Remarkably, hundreds of athletes are running the equivalent distance of a half marathon with times in the low 60 minutes. Also unusual is how many ekiden teams are formed and funded by Japanese corporations, with their runners essentially being employed and paid a salary to train and compete, whilst also fulfilling some duties in the office. This is quite a contrast to other nations’ athletes where they’re self-employed and paid via sponsorships, appearance fees, race wins and so on. The ekiden funding system goes some way to explain where the wealth of Japanese running talent comes from; earning a crust as a professional athlete is a very real prospect for many in Japan.

Flipping the coin over for a moment, the ekiden also appears to be a double-edged sword for the nation, where it robs the country of diversity in running talent. Finn discovered rather quickly that those with ability are swiftly maneuverered into becoming ekiden athletes and because of this, Japan does not excel at track running; few are nurtured and developed and it largely remains as a niche hobby.

In terms of training, Japan also tends to follow a traditional approach. I lost count of the number of times where the metaphor “nails that stick out are hammered down” was used. Heaven forbid you question a coach’s training methodology because that’s the way it’s been done for decades! Japan’s cultural values are heavily built upon authority, chains of command and respect; the environment simply isn’t there for radical ways of thinking.

I also felt Finn’s frustrations stemmed from his much more open and inviting Kenyan experience (from his previous work, Running with the Kenyans). Further to Japan’s cultural quirks is its often closed, yet polite society, which he frequently encountered. He would get so close to a breakthrough, only to be scuppered at the last moment. This and the language barrier (in spite of a translator) only allowed the surface of Japanese running to be scratched; for somebody on a research and writing assignment, it must have been disheartening to be so close to the source, yet so far at the same time.

Did I enjoy the book? Most definitely. Easy to read and entertaining, it provided a window into the curious world of Japanese running that few have been able to venture into and report on.

5k from work

I definitely took a hit from the 4x 1600m session, so this was nice and slow. I had my first geese and goslings sighting of the spring, all of them making one hell of a racket and no doubt a foreshadowing of what is to come later in the season.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 canal miles with fartlek

It’s odd how quickly this boosted mid-week run has become a staple part of my schedule. The fartlek element was thrown in to give my legs some faster turnover, especially as I wouldn’t be running at Parkrun this week. I felt fantastic throughout where it all felt rather effortless. Here’s the data for this run.

I must have gotten very lucky out there because I managed to avoid the rain entirely!

Strangely, I didn’t see another male runner out there on the canal towpath; only female runners. Is there a positive correlation between the likelihood of rain and the reluctance of male runners to get out there? More test data needed…

Continuing the theme of geese sightings, I didn’t see any goslings but I did majorly piss off one mother goose for her to hiss at me wildly. Nerve rackingly, this was exactly at the point of my switchback for home so I had to turnaround for her to hiss once more and send the bad juju my way.

Perry Hall Parkrun

Paul Sinton Hewitt's autograph

Thanks for the autograph, Paul Sinton Hewitt

This was my first visit back to Perry Hall Parkrun since early January and what a contrast it was. There were only 27 runners then with the weather wet and miserable, whereas on this occasion, there were 213 with bright and dry conditions. The Ambassadors’ Weekend obviously helped to drive numbers up, with some turning up to try and catch a glimpse of the founder of Parkrun, Paul Sinton Hewitt (myself and Nigel included!) Sadly, there weren’t more famous faces about whereas last year saw the triple whammy of Liz Yelling, Steve Way and Chrissie Wellington.

Due to the Race for Wildlife 10k the next day, I volunteered to marshal at the event, pulling double duty as a marshal on the bridge and at the end of the funnel to direct runners towards the barcode scanners.

Perry Hall achieved its new attendance record ambitions, but I was somewhat disappointed to see it wasn’t nearer the 300 estimate predicted; I know a number visited other nearby events such as Brueton, Arrow Valley, and Kingsbury Water; the British Masters Road Relays were also in action I’m aware. Nonetheless, it was good to see Kings Heath Running Club making up the bulk of visiting runners, along with a few other Cannon Hill regulars.

Gwent Race for Wildlife 10k

Click here to read more about how the Gwent Race for Wildlife 10k 2015.

Time for this week’s excerpt from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book (which most readers of this blog won’t need to worry about):

Pretend you’re British

Runners at the start of a race can be testy for the same reasons they can have overactive bladders. They’re pumped up yet caged up; they’re a bit anxious and the adrenaline is flowing. Then the gun goes off. Suddenly, folks who were bumping elbows just a few seconds ago are moving forward in a knot, trying to pass each other.

No wonder tempers can flare, particularly in the first mile or so. One smart way to react, should you ever be on the receiving end of a flare-up: Go all British on ‘em. Not in a cockey-accent, tea-drinking kind of way… but in that unfailingly polite and unassuming kind of way.

Nothing disarms people or diffuses tension faster than a smile and a “sorry” or “my fault.” Holding a hand up, palm facing out, doesn’t hurt either. It’s a universal symbol for “I come in peace and am sorry for kicking the back of your shoe.”

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