Be a Top Performer

I often get athletes sending me their training and asking me to comment. Another common question is what sort of training and what times did I do. Below I have outlined the training I was doing in the 1980s. It gives an indication of the level of fitness I attained to be able to run the times. Interestingly I did not win any of the races below. My best placing was a 3rd.

The first is a weeks training as a 18-year-old. It ended with my first time under 3m50s for 1500m.

Thu: pm 6x800m each with 4 minutes recovery, 2m1, 2m2, 2m2, 2m2, 2m3, 2m2

Fri: am 55min, pm: 5x200m, 27, 27, 26, 26, 26

Sat: am 55min, pm: 40min

Sun: am 55min, pm: 40min

Mon: am 30 min

Tue: pm 30 min then 400m in 55s

Wed: pm race 1500m on grass track 3m48.2

At 18 years old I decided that I was never going to be a world class 1500m runner. In the race above, I was still only 6th. The race was won by John Walker in 3m39. We were lucky to have athletes such as John racing most Saturday afternoons in Auckland. He showed the standard required to be an Olympic Champion. During the 1980s road racing was becoming popular and I found that several of the top performers were getting paid to enter certain events. Therefore, I decided to spend more time training for longer 10km, 15km and half marathon events. This meant longer training runs but I also kept my speed up. Here is 12 days training (as a 21-year-old) leading up to a 63-minute half marathon.

Wed: 10km in 30m10s then 4x1500m with a 4m30, 1km recovery; 4m15, 4m15, 4m18, 4m10. Finished with 6x400m, each with 90sec recovery; 68, 68, 65, 62, 62, 61

Thu: am 52 min, pm 27min

Fri: am 50 min, pm 25 min

Sat: am 30 min

Sun: 3x5km each with a 4m30, 1km recovery; 15m, 14m59, 14m58

Mon: am 50min, pm 25 min

Tue: am 50 min

Wed: am 30 min, pm 30 min

Thu: am 30 min

Fri: am 30 min

Sat: rested

Sun: Half Marathon Race (3rd)

I was lucky enough to live 10 minutes from a golf course. That was where most of my morning runs were done. I also lived within 20 minutes’ drive of a forest, where I did most of my afternoon or longer runs. Longer intervals were in Auckland Domain which has a 1500m road loop. In the summer there is also a grass 400m track. As a 22-year-old I first managed to break 8 minutes for 3000m. Here is the 10 days training beforehand. In the 1980s there were no GPS watches, so I am not sure of the pace of my longer runs. I just used to term them easy.

Mon: pm 10x400m first 5 with 60 sec recovery, the rest with 45 sec: 61, 61, 60, 62, 62, 61, 63, 63, 61, 61

Tu: pm 40 min

Wed: am 58min, pm 40 min

Thu: am 51 min

Fri: pm 4x800m with 4 min recovery, 1m57, 1m57, 1m59, 1m58

Sat: am 40 min, pm 40 min

Sun: am 30 min, pm 30 min

Mon: am 30 min

Tue: am 30 min

Wed: 3000m (grass track) 7m58.1

In that 3k race I was still only 4th with the winner running 7m50s.

Last week I watched the annual Auckland Night of 5s. Nick Willis’s time of 13m55 was ordinary. However he showed his class and stretched his legs with the final 800m run well under 2 minutes. In the 1980s we had John Walker, Dick Quax and Rod Dixon showing us the standard needed to be world class. The Night of 5s race would have been an up-tempo training run for Nick Willis. He is one of the best in the world and is capable of running much faster. An ordinary run by Nick should be achievable by the best in Auckland. That is the standard you should be aiming for. With modern training methods, a sub 14-minute 5km should be achievable by any male runner who can break 3min50s for 1500m or sub 8 minutes for 3000m. If you cannot run either of those times, there is your first weakness. That is what you must initially train for. Best times are usually attained after racing 6-12 times. This means you need to race at least every 3-4 weeks. That allows you to gauge your fitness and your lap times also indicate what your training should be concentrating on and what you have managed to improve on.

Training to be a top performer is hard. It does not happen overnight. It comes from training consistently every day, racing to gauge your fitness and slowly raising the standard each year. Nobody trains to be ordinary. Note that the above training is not necessarily what I would recommend for today’s runners. I have included it to give an indication of the commitment needed and the standard of what a top performer from the past was able to achieve.

It is the end of the year and I would like to congratulate top performers from my own team of athletes. Sophie Atkinson not only won the NZ Schools 800m title but finishes the year as the fastest u18 runner in the country. It has taken 5 years of training and 2 bronze medals, but all the hard work and self-belief finally paid off. Peyton Leigh gained a silver medal in the Junior 800m. Not a bad achievement given that it was her first nationals. Peyton also topped the list for the fastest mile in the u18 woman’s division for 2018. Penelope Salmon not only topped various Orienteering lists and represented NZ, she also managed to gain a silver medal at the school nationals in the road race. Congratulations also to Elliette, Maddi and Lucy who gained medals in the school’s road race team’s events. Finally there is Meghann Stewart who despite her success remains the consummate professional in her attitude and commitment to being the best. Being a World Champion means it would be easy to bypass smaller, local events. But Meghann still runs at local events and at the North Island Masters Championships, won 3 gold medals and gained 3 North Island records. She continually shows us and her fellow masters athletes what it takes to be a top performer.