DIARY: Great improvement, long time-frames

Muscle memory is returning with exceeding swiftness now and so are my powers of recovery. I backed off yesterday, pace-wise, doing just the 20 minute morning jog and a 45 minute slower aerobic run as muscle soreness was quite high.

It worked as all my spring had returned by the time I embarked on I did a very long set of my drills as well as Jay Johnson’s “Lunge Matrix”: we met Jay on the Lydiard Seminar in Boulder, he’s a great guy and his lunge matrix is an effective tool in helping set the body up right for running and it supplements the drills I got from Antony Riddle in London perfectly. I have also adopted a few of the yoga drills I found most effective and usually do these before most runs, particularly to get my hip stretched out. Pure strength is worthless, only functional strength expressed over the full length of the muscle is truly effective.

Up Kevin’s Way my pace was immediately faster than it would be on a normal day, next I noticed I was barely losing momentum on the climbs and this continued throughout. I never lost strength and for the first 16km my body felt like it had never had an injury. Then suddenly I felt both signs of my old hip and ankle niggles on the right leg which started to tighten.

Hitting the reset button

I took a deep breath, relaxed and tried to dispel the fear of injury that still hangs over every run I do. Once I relaxed things were fine and I found confidence in knowing that as long as I keep doing my drills: mornings, before runs, after runs and evenings, then my muscular system resets itself in its natural patterns and takes away the pulling that has caused inflammation in various joints in the past. Once again today, this worked amazingly, from having a stiff ankle by the time I write this, both my legs feel free and relaxed. Function truly follows form. Setup the form right before each run and ideal function will follow. As long as you keep proper function, your injury resistance multiplies by vast multitudes as the full muscular system is available to help the body absorb the impacts of running.

Improvement curve

I knew from fairly early on that I was looking to do my fastest medium-long training run on the Glendalough/Laragh Loop course and it proved: 4:35min/km pace for 93 minutes (20.3 km). This meant I managed to achieve almost total recovery between the Sunday long run and this Tuesday run with no need for the oft-advertised “total rest”.

While it may not sound very impressive for any competitive club runner out there it signifies a major milestone for me: my average kilometres per week have been extremely low in 2009, 2010 and 2011 due to constant injury (58, 57 and 41 km respectively). In 2012 so far it stands at 86 km per week. In 2011, it took me 12 medium-long runs on the course to get down to 4:40min/km pace. This time I managed to break it well in only my third try.

About 0.1 down, 9.9 years to go

When I read about Arthur’s runners, the one who seemed to have had the body-type and race type preference most closely related to myself is Barry Magee, so I let myself be inspired by the model of his rise, as Keith Livingstone told me:

Barry Magee has told me many times that his progress was very slow and steady, and he was quite “ordinary” until about the 10-year mark, when he made huge breakthroughs on the track and in the marathon.

I expect to see a marked increase in performance if I can maintain this level of training for 3 years. Then improvements should be steady after that. Only at that mark will I be able to assess what level of runner I am likely to be. Until then my fitness levels are too low to tell. Beyond that, should the signs be good, I believe the path to full potential will take 10 years of this training. Age does not concern me as most of the effects of it are due to poor maintenance rather than biological factors so it is within my own control to retain the majority of my youthfulness.

Certainly, all runners using the Lydiard system or something similar will see results year on year, as we did in 2011, but I believe that if any of those runners who train with me now are willing to give it three years they will see a big improvement. If they can stick it out for ten years, they won’t have to grow old wrestling the question of just how good they could be. Because they will know.

I don’t count the mileage I have done in years previous to this as the quality has been too varied. It’s general physical condition but still well below anything our African competitors have. We need all the time we can get to close in on that level of conditioning. When I wrote this it struck me there is something unusually daunting about setting my mind to a ten-year time-frame. It’s a lot of life but then if you commit to something to the level that most runners do, why do it half-baked? Besides people have made much longer commitments in terms of lifestyle when it comes to so many other choices (marriage, children, jobs, residence, bad decisions, I could go on).

Hopefully come 2022 I will look back at a mark in the calendar for this day as the beginning of seeing it through.