Simon was already a very competitive runner with a number of podium places in races to his credit when I first met up with him after he had finished 5th in a time of 17 Mins 19 Seconds at the Avenham Park 5 km race in May 2017.

Two weeks previous Simon had just missed out by 3 mins 26 seconds on a Championship Qualifying time for the London Marathon 2018. Good for age time had been reached though so his place in the race was guaranteed.

Having spent some time training for the Marathon the initial aim of the coaching was to get back to the times he had been running prior and then to kick on to even faster times.

Simon is like most runners and a habitual racer, there are far too many races in his calendar and this means planning training around them without affecting performance too much is at best difficult. The same is true for shift workers where the shift patterns change a lot, but we all like a challenge!

St Anne’s 5 km – The First Target

Having watched Simon run a few times and also observed him in a few training sessions a specific set of routines and drills to improve lower leg strength as well as neurological pathway performance (how the brain tells you to do things and in what order etc) were put together. This along with a specific set of training sessions working on maximum velocity and short distance intervals would form the basis of the first 8 weeks of training culminating in the St Anne’s Carnival 5 km Race in early July.

A breezy day on St Anne’s sea front meant a difficult head wind during the second half of the race but having ran the same race a year earlier in a time of 17 mins 30 seconds it was clear the hard work over the last 8 weeks had paid off and a time of 16 mins 34 seconds was recorded to finish second overall!

It is also worth noting that in training for this race Simon ran 2 other 5 km races in the weeks before and set 2 identical times of 16 mins 29 seconds both faster than his St Annes time. Simon was now running consistently around the 16:30 mark some 20 seconds faster than his previous Personal Best and had ran his first ever sub 5 min mile (4 mins 50 seconds) at the Clan Midsummer Mile race.

A 5% improvement in overall pace had been achieved from 5:34 mins per mile at Avenham Park to the 5:19 mins per mile pace at Podium 5 km and Lostock Hall 5 km.

Mid Cheshire 5 km – How fast can you go?!

Following the success of the previous 8 weeks training, it was decided to see how fast Simon could run in a more competitive field where many of the top 100 would be running at a similar / faster pace to him. Mid Cheshire 5 km provided the perfect opportunity for this and gave him 5 weeks to train for it! Simon had taken on the challenge of running sub 16 though have to admit I knew that it was going to take a lot of effort and commitment from Simon over the next weeks to see him achieve it.

The training for this was much similar to the previous 8 weeks, overall leg strength, short distance speed / endurance intervals and the ongoing neurological pathway training continued but at higher intensities now that Simon was getting used to the training regime. It is worth noting that it doesn’t matter how good you are, if you are not used to full time training regimes then they will always need building over time to avoid injury and over training.

In training for this Simon had improved his PB to 16 mins 25 seconds at the Catforth Canter 5 km race but he had come away from that thinking there was more in the tank at the end.  I think Mid Cheshire 5 km was the only time I have so far seen Simon look slightly nervous before a race. It was a significantly fast field with the top 5 all going sub 15 mins but the fast field worked and Simon ran a fantastic 15 mins 55 seconds to finish 37th overall.

The improvement in Simon’s 5 km time from the 17:19 at Avenham 5 km to the Mid Cheshire 15:55 is nearly 9% which over 12 weeks of training shows the commitment given.

Lancaster Half Marathon – Completing the Circle

Simon had decided to continue with the coaching and was looking long term at the very competitive Telford 10 km race in December but had a holiday to go on and some well-earned down time from training. Every runner needs to build rest periods into the training plans!!

However before he jetted off to warmer climates, there was 1st place in the Red Rose Club Championship to tie up for Simon and this meant taking on the hilly Garstang Half Marathon. Having not really trained for this but with a very good speed training schedule behind him I think Simon surprised a few of us with a 1 hr 16 mins 21 Seconds and Third Place knocking 38 seconds off his Personal Best over the distance.

What about that London Marathon Championship Entry that was missed by just over 3 mins…… London Marathon allow runners to enter this race if they can run a sub 2 hr 45 mins marathon, but a crucially for Simon, they also allow them to run in it if they can run a sub 1 hr 15 mins Half Marathon. Given Simon’s time on the hilly Garstang Half there was the possibility he could run it on a flatter course.

Following nearly a month off training to allow the body to recover and have a holiday training consisted of longer distance intervals, longer runs and lots more hill / strength work and routines to prepare the body for a longer race. The flat (apart from the final killer hill) Lancaster Half Marathon represented the best chance for this. With a controlled race based around the pace required Simon recorded a London Marathon Championship Qualifying time of 1 hr 14 mins 11 seconds!!

Simon has therefore knocked 2 min 47 seconds off his half marathon time since working with RunSmart Coaching this equates to a 7.5% improvement over the distance.

From the Athletes Perspective!

To be honest I’d never given coaching much thought. I always thought of that as being for truly elite runners who would have coaches barking instructions at them at the track and making them run mile after mile after mile. It was only the successes of a couple of other people I know that made me think it could work for me.

Whilst I was a fairly decent runner beforehand, I knew I could improve but never truly committed to a structured training routine or targeted a specific race / distance. I would just run whenever I felt like it and if I didn’t feel like it then I didn’t do it. Even with this I was improving, probably more down to luck and competitiveness than judgement.

After a meeting with Damian we put plans and targets in place and I had a schedule to follow to help improve my times and strengthen weaker areas. The first few sessions were not easy and I had a race already in for my first week. The Burnley Lions 10 km wasn’t going to be easy anyway but adding the 30 degree heat and tired legs into the equation resulted in a pretty poor performance. Not a great start but after only 5 days I couldn’t really judge. It’s got better since….a hell of a lot better.

I’ve now had around 20 weeks of coaching (as at November 2017) and have smashed my 1 m, 5 km, 5 mile and half marathon PB’s as well as having numerous top 3 finishes in races, culminating in 1st place at the Lancaster Half Marathon in 1.14:11. Considering half marathons have not been the main focus of training it shows just how far I’ve come and how much the training has worked.

Our work together isn’t yet done and I’ve got 2 main goals for the next 6 months. A sub 33 minute 10 km (current PB 34.11) and a sub 2.40 marathon at London (current PB 2.48:25).

Fingers crossed!