DIARY: Injury Ramblings and Talk of Time

Not much happening on the running side of the World of Borg.

While my hill session went well Friday evening, doing two laps of the Phoenix Park proved disastrous the next day, as every single niggle let itself be known. Ankle sore, heel sore, old meniscus injury sore, and a banged up right quad too.

Heavy icing was the way to go, of course, and Sunday and Monday off (I spent them doing weights and stretches).

The equilibrium has been disturbed, so off I went to Physio Needs in Irishtown (www.physioneeds.ie) too purchase a special ankle brace for off-road racing which should allow me to get through Snowdon.

My aim now is to keep ticking over until Snowdon, complete that race and then take whatever period of rest is necessary, even if it means missing all the good stuff, the Trail League, the World Trial and the cross-country season.

I learned a few more interesting things from my book "Lore of Running", that has changed my approach.

T-Minus 15 Years
15 years. That's the period of time that you have. Not to live, of course, or anything ominous like that. But that's the average person's ability to keep improving through high intensity training. Beyond 15 years, the body loses its ability to shrug of the negative effects of hard training.

This is the stage where, while you can still keep a decent level for another good few years, you will be past your peak and no more major improvements will be possible. There will be a few amazingly gifted athletes who may be able to tolerate it for longer (say 20 years), but sooner or later the bell will toll and its time to prioritise differently.

If you follow the advice in the Lore of Running and take 2 months completely off running each year, you will undoubtedly have a more productive 15 years, and you may even extend it.

While this sounds like negative news, it's actually excellent news, as you can use it to plan your career. Second piece of good news is, your age is of relatively little importance. While your physical abilities start to wane somewhat between 40 and 50, its negligible, especially in endurance running, meaning you can continue to have considerable improvements during this decade of your lifetime.

Beyond 50, it is more difficult, as age takes its toll, but clever training could still produce some progress.

This explains why few champions of today will be the champions of tomorrow. Statistics show that runners who won much in their 20ies will not be winning the races in their forties (as frequently). Instead their space will be taken up by runners who started later, and are not yet as worn down by the effects of hard training.

The important thing here is to only count years of serious training (as only this eventually wears out the bodies capacity for improvement). For myself, for instance, I probably have in the neighbourhood of 1 year serious training, meaning if I can continue that I should hit my peak around the age of 44. Would I have been better if I had started at 15 and would have peaked at 30? Undoubtedly, but that time is past, and now the best I can hope for will happen in such relatively late age.

Does it mean I'll necessarily beat those who started younger (and are worn down?). Not really, only if our genetic potential is similar. The truth is (and the Lore of Running painfully makes this clear) that genetics is the main factor in determining performance. What is never much mentioned is how fast the best athletes in the world is even when they do little or no training. The training they do is an important factor, but copying their training alone cannot bridge the gap.

It will mean that if you have started later than people of comparable talent, you will eventually pass them out in the later stages of your careers, so in that way, I guess it means most of us will have some sort of "time in the limelight" even if we're still genetically too far behind to become champions.