Category Archives: Training session

The Special Run, Durham, Saturday, April 4, 2020

15 Miles

Corrine Whaling

Striders

I had been following Allan’s marathon training plan – albeit now without a marathon to train for. I have found it hugely helpful to continue to follow the plan, as it’s given me a sense of purpose and consistency in a world which at the minute is unpredictable and forever changing. The plan on the other hand is a constant in a sea of change. It tells me what to do, and I do it. It also keeps me feeling connected to Allan, and to Anna whom I had been training with for London.

Usually the plan is fairly straightforward – it gives me a number of miles to run, and Allan’s advice was to run the majority of these “by feel”. This is what I have been doing, although I am very aware that how I feel is now a lot slower than I would have been had I still been training for a marathon which was going to happen. That’s partly because of everything happening in the world, and the mental and physical exhaustion that I feel as a result. It’s also purposeful – as an NHS doctor I am a key worker, and I feel strongly the responsibility to do all I can to stay well and at work. This means not putting my body under undue stress and pressure. Too many long or hard runs may reduce immunity, and a long hard run is definitely off the cards at present.

So today’s run was a conundrum. The “special run” is one of the stalwarts of the plan. It’s a marathon pace driven 15 mile run, with some intervals thrown in just for good measure! The original plan which Anna and I had created was slightly bonkers – we’ve learned that having some bonkers plans in amongst the serious stuff keeps our running fun! We’d planned to take Friday 3rd April off work, stay over in Roker on the Thursday night, go for a nice carb loading Italian with a mutual friend, then run along the coast together following the Special Run pace plan on Friday morning, enabling me to get back to Durham in time to catch the train to Manchester to watch Rory, Nik, Karen and numerous other Striders run the Manchester Marathon on the Sunday. Given the fuss I was making about London I had also planned an indulgent weekend away with Rory, who had missed out on a Good for Age place in London by 19 seconds when they adjusted the time goals.  

Clearly now none of these previous plans were going to happen, so I needed a creative solution to the “special run”, and so began the forming of a plan……
I decided I was going to run 15 miles starting at home and following a route that would be special to me. This was to run routes which reminded me of happy times – and for me this meant Striders training sessions.

I loved this run! Whilst I had to run it alone, and at stupid o’clock in the morning to make sure I was assured of observing social distancing on such a long route, running these familiar routes meant that I was accompanied by memories of friends throughout. 

I ran from home along the A167 towards County Hall. This initial stretch of the A167 was part of a 7mm 10 mile route which Anna and I had offered to lead on a Wednesday Striders night– we had no other takers! It was a lovely run though just the two of us, reminiscent of our Brampton to Carlisle run in distance and pace but had felt more comfortable than B2C– a sure sign that our training was going well.

I then arrived at County Hall and did some reps of the car park with a couple of efforts up the hill (clearly I can’t stop myself from doing some pace work – the competitive Type A personality is strong!). I had Stephen  in my mind, telling me to maintain my form, Jan  encouraging me up the hills, I was remembering Peter  pipping me to the finish on the final hill rep, and chasing Michael  and Graeme  up the hills (not winning that one!). I was remembering friendly hugs from Juan, and drinks and chat with Wendy and Chris afterwards. 

From there I made my way down to the riverbanks, and ran the final stretch of Parkrun – again unable to resist putting in an effort and pretending it was a sprint finish! I was reminiscing on a number of previous fast finishes there, personally when pacing 25 min with Kathryn and Malcolm finishing just close by. Lovely chats with Karen and Lesley afterwards, and hearing about David and Juan battling out the finishes. 

Next up was a cut through the woods towards Maiden Castle, and a run along the riverbanks, across the bridge opposite the Rose Tree, then back along the other side of the banks towards Noisy Bridge. This was a route that Anna and I had run often as a warm up prior to our early Tuesday morning track sessions with Allan. Frosty mornings had not deterred us, although today was sunny and warm by comparison. As I approached Noisy Bridge I had Allan in mind again, his spot at Parkrun provided an opportunity to think of him and to be thankful for all he gave so many of us. The track was not too far away, and that also provided a number of lovely fun memories of times spent there – the Christmas run being the most recent with inflatable Santas, Mince Pies and chocolates! I toasted the front of Maiden Castle with a Kendal Mint Cake gel – my new running food of choice. I was imagining Striders gathered outside MC doing stretches and cool downs, and the good humoured banter that goes along with that (including Lesley’s scarecrow joke which had Phil, Mark, Rory and I in stitches – for all the wrong reasons!)

Onwards to the club run route – I ran one lap this time round, remembering the first time I had done this route. Stephen came flying past towards the middle of the first lap, looking supremely comfortable. I had commented to Alex B that it was so unfair that Stephen looked so comfortable – Alex said something that would stay with me – he pointed out that the “speedies “ were trying just as hard as the rest of us, and it wasn’t easy for anyone. Too true! Running through the woods today was brilliant – quiet, peaceful, birds and squirrels galore. 

After the club run route I headed up towards the science site, remembering a club run there a couple of years ago which was great fun. Michael and Fiona had organized a 3 drill run – reps of the hill, laps of the carpark, and a Parlouf style run towards South Road. I had been paired with Anna M, and we’d had great fun. I again couldn’t resist a couple of efforts on the hills and flats. Going up the hill I had Allan R in my head – “go, go, go” – how he has the energy and breath to shout encouragement whilst still going at some speedy pace himself I will never know!

I then returned to South Road and made my way to the Theatre of Dreams. This holds so many happy memories – I was a regular last year and that was when I really started to see my times improve.  I thought the track was for speedies, and had avoided it in favour of 10k routes around town, but the idea of running round a car park was not so intimidating so I really took to it and the interval training it provided reaped big rewards. I had really enjoyed chasing Peter, Mark, David, Alex, Matthew C and Anna M round in circles – we were all very close in pace and had great fun lots of Wednesday evenings. I enjoyed watching Michael and Mark K go flying past, often joined by Graeme in close succession. Seeing Lisa L improve her times here, along with so many others, made it a lovely social occasion.

The last stop was Low Burnhall where I had Elaine in my mind, funny warm up dances, and setting off far to quickly on the first efforts at a pace that I could not sustain throughout despite desperate attempts to do so. I’m not naturally a cross country runner, but I do enjoy trying. Memories of Nina and Jan encouraging me to try to catch Elaine, and of Barrie going flying up the hills, as well as lots and lots and lots of mud….

Back along the A167 I had meant to jog the final mile, but the legs felt good, so I decided to go for it – and ended the run to find I’d got a second place Strava trophy for the “A167 short section” segment, only behind Tracy Millmore on the leaderboard – not bad for the end of a 15 mile run! Clearly my legs are still in decent condition, and the urge to race has not left me! In fact perhaps I’d better to back out and try for that crown soon……

This was a great run – showing that although we are socially distancing, we are not socially distant. My Striders friends were with me throughout that run, in my mind and thoughts. I look forward to the time when we can be together again in person, but until then the Striders family remains a source of strength, inspiration and great memories!

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Theatre of Dreams, Wednesday, February 26, 2020

It’s not that often I attend club training nights. Mainly because I finish work at 3:30 each day so can have ran, come home and have the tea cooking in the oven before the majority of people finish work. However this Wednesday gone I finished work late and opted to come to club training.

Arriving at The University Sports Centre (Formerly known as Maiden Castle) at around 6:45pm there were (as always) no spaces to be found in the main car park so into the Overflow it was. At this point I still hadn’t decided which of the sessions on offer I was going to take part in. did I just want a nice steady run out? Did I want to do some speed work? Did I want to do some Cross Country training? Well if I wanted to do the latter I was in the wrong place!

After hearing the different options available (and having read them on TeamApp) I decided I’d give Michael’s Track alternative the Theatre of Dreams (ToD) a go. My good friend Dave Toth, also making a rare Striders appearance, decided he’d give this a go too.

So announcements over with and assembled outside in our groups off we went.

The warm up for the ToD session is a nice gentle 1.3 mile hill climb up to the Howlands P&R where the main session takes place. Even walking uphill for 1.3 miles would get you successfully warmed up, this was just a nice conversation paced jog to warm the legs up.

Once at the P&R Michael explained what his session was going to be.
Four repetitions of six minutes at threshold pace, thirty seconds hard followed by a minutes recovery. Michael defined threshold as Ten mile to Half Marathon pace to save any complicated mathematical calculations taking place which for me would be around 8:45 pace. 

A quick blast of the whistle and we were off, first six minutes. Dave and I started this together, both running about the same pace. He couldn’t see his watch (old age!) and I knew it was faster than my threshold pace, but it was comfortable and we stayed together. The six minutes passed and Michael blew the whistle, 30 seconds hard effort. This of course started on the uphill incline for me! Puffing, panting and working hard the whistle for the minutes recovery couldn’t come quick enough! I slowed to a very slow jog to regain my composure ready for the next repetition.

Three more repetitions followed with everyone working hard at their own paces. Come the final hard thirty seconds at the end of the last repetition I had nothing left in my legs and was pleased to hear the whistle one final time for a minute recovery jog.

The cool down was a return to the University Sports Centre, fortunately this time downhill, followed by stretches.

Thank you to Michael and all the other Run Leaders for putting on these sessions each week to allow this club and its members to go from strength to strength.

My Strava.
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Göteborg Running Club Training Session, Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Danny Lim

Sweden has given the world ABBA, Volvo and Ikea. For runners, we can also include the Fartlek. However, I learnt another new thing from Sweden during my recent trip to Gothenburg.

I was standing in the shadow of an ancient Swedish fort at the top of a steep hill with a couple of hundred lycra clad runners. We were listening intently to the instructions of our head coach Johan. The crowd nodded from time to time, I followed suit, not knowing a word of Swedish. My plan was to follow everyone and hoped it would work.

We started off with 10 minutes of light jogging and active stretching. This was followed by a form of circuit training for runners. There would be short but intense uphill sprints interspersed by pyelometrics or on-the-spot exercises. The exercises could be anything from squats and lunges to “falling knives” and “mountain climber”. My favourite was the resistance exercise where you’d run whilst a fellow runner held you back by a belt (see video). There was minimal recovery periods and my heart rate hardly had a chance to slow down. We ran round this circuit for approximately 40 minutes before finishing off with a couple of uphill sprints.

Though I consider myself a seasoned runner, I found this session to be intense, and though we only covered 4 miles, I could truly say I had a “proper” workout. Although this session all took place within a small area, it easily accommodated 200 runners of different abilities. Everyone could run uphills at their own pace and beginners could do less repetitions during exercises. Perhaps this is a session we could try one day at The club? Happy to help if anyone needs more details.

Finally, I must Thank the coaches and fellow runners for a warm welcome and allowing me to bumble along.

[Video link in links below. No Facebook login required. – Ed.]

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A Beginners Guide to Elvet Striders Track Sessions

Tamsin Imber & Allan Seheult with contributions from Lesley Charman, Katy Walton and Fiona Jones

Our club track sessions are for ALL abilities. While track sessions may seem intimidating if you have never done them before, once you take the plunge you will see that they are fun, extremely beneficial and certainly not intimidating. You may be nervous about not understanding the session, or being slower than other people. This guide to the basics of track sessions will allay your fears.

What is a track session?

A track session is a running fitness session which takes place on the track [see Appendix]. The track sessions run by the Elvet Striders are led by club coaches, although are also completely possible to do on your own.

Each track session is in three parts: a warm-up, the main session and the cool down. All track sessions begin with a warm-up. The warm-up is really important to prepare the body’s muscles for the hard work to follow and to reduce the risk of injury. This usually involves some easy running, by dynamic mobility exercises and strides. The easy running may be a few social laps of the track. Dynamic mobility exercises are exercises which raise the heart rate and which get the muscles firing. Some examples include ‘fast feet’, walking lunges, skipping, side-steps, bum kicks, shallow squats, ‘windmill’ arms. These exercises are dynamic to prevent the muscles from being over-stretched before they are warm enough. They focus on the main groups of muscles used in running. Strides are running fast for very short distances. For example, the coach might ask you to run 2 laps of the track where you jog the bends and run fast on the straights. The aim of this is to slowly raise your heart rate to that which you will use during the main session.

The main track session follows. The main session involves a series of intervals and recoveries. Intervals are when you run harder at a specified pace (to be explained), and recoveries are when you recover from running harder. For example, you might do 6 repetitions of 3 minutes hard running with 2-minute recoveries. That would mean that you are doing 18 minutes of harder running in total. In the recoveries you would run at a much slower pace, either jogging or walking or some combination of the two. The aim is to keep an even pace throughout the session in both the intervals and the recoveries, i.e., you should cover the same distance in each interval. Whatever you decide to do in the recoveries (jog or walk) you should aim to do the same each time.

There are different paces which you might be asked to run the intervals in. These include threshold pace, interval pace and repetition pace. These paces are determined by your current fitness level and can be calculated using for example a parkrun PB, or 5K PB or 10K PB, using either the calculator in http://www.attackpoint.org/trainingpaces.jsp or a simple calculator provided in the session notes circulated in both email and FaceBook communications. If you prefer to run by effort and feel, no problem, just leave your sports watch at home. The following table indicates how running effort can be graded on a scale of 1 to 10. You should aim to run at the same effort in each interval and in each recovery. 

Rating of perceived exertionActivity Level
1Resting – no exertion
2Minimal activity – barest exertion
3Light activity – comfortable, slight difficulty breathing
4Light activity – comfortable speaking, breaking a sweat
5Moderate activity-speaking is easy, light sweating.
6Moderate activity-able to speak, moderate sweating
7Hard activity-difficulty speaking, heavy sweating
8Hard activity-Unable to speak, difficulty breathing
9Very hard activity
10Maximal exertion-cannot push any further

The main session is followed by a cool down. This is where the body is brought back gradually to its pre exercise state, reducing heart rate, body temperature and breaking down of any build-up of lactic acid from the session (this is thought to be one of the contributing factors to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). The cool down may begin with some easy running or walking, which may be joined on to the end of the main session. This is followed by static stretches to bring the muscles back to their pre-exercise length as when you exercise muscles by contraction, they tighten/shorten. Repeating the stretches later or using a foam roller later also helps. Examples of static stretches include deep squats, hamstring stretches, glute stretches and quad stretches.

Club track sessions are calibrated by time. By this, I mean a coach will time the intervals and recoveries with a watch and blow a whistle—one blast meaning start hard running and two blasts meaning start of recovery; and usually 3-5 blasts signalling the end of the session. Thus, regardless of ability, everyone starts and finishes every interval and recovery at the same time—in true Elvet Strider tradition, “no one gets left behind”.

Track sessions can be done equally well by distance., especially if you are doing a track session on your own or with a few friends you could use sports watches if you are running by time, or use the distance markers round the track if you are running by distance. 

Why do track sessions?

Regular track sessions can improve your speed and endurance. This takes time but does happen. Improvement can be measured using time trials or by comparing over several weeks your parkrun times on the same parkrun route, preferably under similar conditions.

Track sessions enable you to learn how to pace yourself (run with even effort/speed over time). This is useful training for racing where setting off too fast could mean a weak finish or hitting a wall before the finish. (Note that in a marathon, owing to the distance, hitting a wall is unavoidable due to human physiology, however if you pace yourself well then this wall creeps up later and more gently rather than earlier and suddenly).

Track sessions are very time efficient in terms of training. The whole session may last only 45 minutes.

A key benefit of track is you can run freely without interruption, focussing fully on your running and running form. There is no uneven ground, pavement curbs or pedestrians and road crossings to look out for.

Track sessions are sociable. You get to meet lots of people running in circles. If you are nervous you could pal up with someone of similar ability and run together. You can also run with people of similar speed to help push each other. 

I am not a fast runner—is track for me?

Track is for all. Track is for beginners to elite runners. Track can help road, trail, fell running and triathlon to maintain and improve fitness. 

The wonderful thing about running in circles is no-body knows where anyone is as it all gets a bit mixed up with everyone running at different speeds. So, don’t worry if you think you might be slower than everyone else as no-one can tell. In fact, running in a circle you can always assume everyone is behind you! 

Also, be mindful that speed is not only a function of fitness. Speed is also dependent on age, number of hours a week you work, number of hours you devote to running, and family considerations. Speed is adversely affected by lack of sleep, stress and by how much else you have done that day. 

There are many games you can play running in circles! Running in circles with others also allows you to challenge yourself. For example, you could decide everyone is ahead of you and that you need to attempt to pass as many people as possible. This is good mental preparation for pursuit races such as cross-country.

If you are finding it hard, a mental trick that I play is to pretend the track it is always downhill. The long edge of the track nearest the sports centre is slightly downhill, then you spin round the bend and are greeted by the other long edge next to the river which is yet more downhill, run around the bend and …funnily enough …. you are going downhill again! 

What to expect afterwards

Some DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) is normal for a few days after a track session as you have pushed yourself, especially if you are new to track. Especially as it required 200 muscles to take a stride when running! To help your muscles recover you should eat protein between 30-60 minutes after hard exercise, drink lots of water and rest or run at an easy pace for a few days after or longer depending on your fitness. If you have more than general overall soreness/stiffness or a specific area which is sore, you could consult one of the club coaches for advice. 

I am relatively new to running—is it safe to do track sessions?

Please discuss with one of the club coaches who will be more than happy to help. 

If you are pregnant/had a baby recently/have a health condition please follow guidance from your GP as appropriate and also discuss with club coaches.

What should I wear and what should I bring to a track session?

Bring plenty of water and warm clothes for afterwards. These can all be left track-side. Wear whatever you feel most comfortable in. 

Track etiquette

There are a few ‘rules of the track’ to keep everyone safe. We all run around the track in the same direction (usually anticlockwise). You run in the inner lanes and it is the responsibility of faster runners to overtake you on your right leaving plenty of space. If you are running with a friend, do not run abreast, but in a line, or with one person on the shoulder of the other. This allows more room for faster runners to pass. When overtaking, stopping, or leaving the inside lane to leave the track, you should check over your shoulder for runners coming up behind you, so as not to cause a collision. Note that warm-up and cool downs are done in the outer lanes of the track to keep out of the way of runners doing a main session.

Finally, …

Most things in life worth doing are not easy. There is a sense of achievement after every track session

APPENDIX

What is a running track?

A modern running track is oval in shape with eight lanes. Running tracks are built following guidelines established by the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations). These guidelines state the distance around the track in the most inner lane should be 400m. 

The distance around the track for the other lanes can be calculated by knowing the lane width and a few other measurements. The formula, L = 2S + 2pi(R + (n-1)w) can be used to calculate the distances around the track for the various lanes. In this formula L equals the lane distance, S equals the length of the straightaway, R is the radius of the turn, n is the lane number and w is the width of the lane.

Since the IAAF has standardized track lane widths at 1.22 meters the above formula calculates the distance around the track in lane 2 as 407.67 meters, lane 3 as 415.33 meters, lane 4 as 423 meters, lane 5 as 430.66 meters, lane 6 as 433.38 meters, lane 7 as 446 meters and lane 8 as 453.66 meters. So, if you are running in lane 8, you are running an additional 54m every lap than the guy in lane 1 (the inner-most lane).

If you are running in lane 1 (the inner-most lane), 4 laps are roughly a mile (4.02 laps to be precise). 

Running tracks can be built with different surfaces. The running track at Maiden Castle has a red, all weather surface which is made of polyeurethane (a synthetic rubber). This surface is durable and heat-resistant

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