Saturday, August 27, 2005

A good student

About eight years ago my athletics club was looking for more coaches. They offered to pay the course fee which was about $100. I said to myself "why not, I might learn something" and after two weekends of lectures and practical demonstrations at the AIS track I became a Level 1 coach in the very general field of 'endurance and walks'.

Prior to this I had been training with Mike Sainsbury's Calwell group for a couple of years. This was (and still is) a group of mainly teenage middle distance and cross country runners with the odd adult like Marlene, Codger and now Karen and Kathy. I've been down at Calwell almost every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon ever since. I know every pothole, blade of grass and crooked line-marking on that 400m track.

In my early days at Calwell I was keen to find some of my old running form after being side-tracked for a while by triathlons. It's not easy to enjoy triathlons when you swim like a brick. My running form returned and at the end of 1997 I ran 4:58 for 1500m and 10:53 for 3000m. I know these are pedestrian times but at my best I could only run just under 10 minutes for 3000m.

After 1997 I became less interested in my own running. It was more exciting to watch the kids training and see how they improved over the months and years. Often they would start as awkward looking beginners who couldn't run out of sight on a dark night and progress to winning medals at state and national championships. This was exciting!

These days I'm still down at Calwell on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Usually I chat to Mike about the kids' training and might have a run with Karen (if it's not raining in Curtin - she has an aversion to running in the rain). I'm too slow to keep up with even the youngest runner on the track. I think Mike puts up with me as 'assistant coach' as I'm the only one who laughs at his eccentric jokes and brilliant puns. The kids just roll their eyes, turn around and walk away. We have an on-going joke about who was the last person to mow and rake the track and did they use a push-mower or nail scissors which the kids don't think is even slightly funny. I also know off-by-heart every inspirational speech Mike has ever made to the kids. If one's called for I'll say "how about trying number 47".

Over the years you see many runners come and go. There have been the sublimely physically talented runners who, sadly, haven't got it 'in the head'. There have been the beautifully smooth naturals who retire at 18 to take on an apprenticeship. There have been the moderately quick runners who win national medals through simple hard work and determination - the good students. It's exciting to see kids learn how to run and improve to the point where they can compete well at state or national level. Although it's sad to see some of them stop for whatever reason, you hope they've learned a love of running that might see them return to it later in life.

I've recently written a training plan for Luckylegs. She would like to improve her speed at distances up to the half marathon. Writing this plan hasn't been an easy thing to do. How do runners who are somewhat older than fifty respond to different methods of training? I don't know (but, through feedback, I'm learning). From personal experience I know that older runners don't recover from training sessions as fast as younger runners. I also know that 'speed' needs to be practised or the body forgets how to run fast.

For Luckylegs I've started with a fairly conservative program. There are two hard sessions per week. One is a time trial over 2km or 3km. I've decided to use this as an introduction to speedwork as it's less likely to cause injuries than interval training. The other hard session is either a long run or a medium long run which includes a faster paced section (around half marathon pace or a bit slower). We'll see how it all works in two week's time!


allrounder said...

i enjoyed that entry ewen...good to see someone putting back into the sport...

very inspiring...

speedygeoff said...

Good plan. In the seventies all my speed work was time trials, races,.... or km intervals which were effectively races. But even km intervals could be very destructive. Keep up the good work.

Louise said...

Ewen, we're all watching LuckyLegs' blog to see how she's coping with your training plan. You certainly have a "good student" there.

Unknown said...

Now Ewen, you needn't lose sleep about LL being "somewhat older than fifty"...(putting it politely!); just tell her what to do & I'll see that she does it!

Stephen Lacey said...

Nice post Ewen. I do a little bit to try and help out runners here who have not had any exposure to endurance training, but I'd love to that coaching certificate if have the opportunity (I'd even pay my own 100 bucks ;-)

You have taken on an enormous responsibility there with Luckylegs...what with the whole of Cool Running looking over your shoulder and all! I'm sure you are up to the task...and you couldn't ask for a better student, eh?

Unknown said...

Right this minute I'm thinking of retiring to a monastery in Mongolia or a Shinto Temple in Tokyo!!

CJ said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog Ewen - I love that IM photo. It brings back some great memories and reminds me that i can achieve anything if I set my mind to it. It was also awesome finishing in the dark and the support of the crowd was just amazing. Truly an incredible experience.

Anne said...

Hey Ewen,

Great to read your news ... I need a blogging coaching plan - I posted this comment back to you on my own blog - a blonde day.

I'd like a Luckylegs coaching plan too - who knows ... I might get back to it by 50!

How nice to see your comment - seriously wasn't expecting to see any posted here!

Still a bit behind the 8-ball re having time to tinker - trying to work out how to post the blog on my earthlink account ... but it might be beyond me!

Just home from a walk with the dogs. Piked on rowing tonight. Got my phone organised, but need to get a router before I can piggyback of my cable modem - always something else to organise.

Talk to you soon.
Anne x