Breaking Barriers

I clearly remember the day my coach approached me with a barrier challenge. I had run sub 3m50s for 1500m so why did I find it so hard to beat 8 minutes for 3000m? Surely running the first half of the race in 4 minutes would be easy. Then there were only 3 and a bit laps to go.

He was right and the challenge certainly got me thinking. To run 8 minutes for 3000m you should average 64 seconds per lap. I knew I could run the pace for 4 or 5 laps and I therefore could use that as a base. I would often start a training session by running 4 laps in 4m16. Then the real training began. During a 3km race, the end of 4 laps was where I used to fall off the pace. I therefore had to train my legs to get to that point and then speed up, even though they were tired.

There are many natural time barriers in athletics. A similar barrier may be 9 minutes for the woman’s 3000m or it may be breaking 2 minutes for 15-year-old boys in the 800m. As the distances move up and beyond 10km there are several time barriers that you can aim for. If a male can break 8 minutes for 3km then they can also break 14 minutes for 5km and 30 minutes for 10km. Most modern training breaks the racing distance into parts. You train to run those parts at the desired pace. The best coaches will build and extend the pace and distance, depending on the individual. Endurance and speed are key elements in any training programme, but each is dependent on the athlete’s current development. There is a balance and we should continually try and improve each component.

A 3000m runner who can run 3m50s for 1500m but has a time of 8m10s or slower for 3000m, clearly needs to improve his end-of-race endurance. However, does he do longer runs, try more track repeat workouts or do a combination of both? If your times are not progressing towards the goal, then your workouts are probably in the wrong direction.

Another athletics season has just about finished. Have you achieved better results? If you do not have a clear direction on what you need to do, if you are not improving or you are not confident of getting faster then don’t be afraid to make a new start. All athletes should understand the training principles that underlies their program and how each workout fits into and maximises their potential. A training programme should consistently produce results with faster times and improvement. When you see the results and understand why and how it is happening you are more motivated and more able to maximise your potential.

There are a lot of sub 3m50 male 1500m runners out there. Likewise, there are several females able to run under 4m20. You are all capable of breaking the 8 minute and 9 minute 3000m barriers. Now is the time to raise your goals and expectations. You need an athletics coach who gives you a programme that takes you from where you are to where you want to go and then beyond. If you are committed and really want it, there are ways to achieve it.