The Next Level

December 28, 2013

It has been eight months since I updated this blog, and ten since my last running related post. Predictably, my excuse is that I’ve been unbelievably busy, but happily much of the time I have been busy running!

After my first sub 40 minute 10k in February, my focus began to slip a little. I’d achieved my main target for the year and my next big event, the Great Scottish Run half marathon in October was a long way off. To compound matters I picked up a niggling achilles injury in May.  Following my positive experience working with a coach, Sam Murphy, in the run up to the Loch Ness Marathon, I was keen to get some more expert help.  I really wanted a coach who was based in North London as face to face time with Sam had been difficult to arrange. Whilst my running performances hadn’t quite reached a plateau, I felt it was time to push on and see how much I could improve.

After about 20 minutes of Googling, I was confident I had found my man – Nick Anderson.  Apart from being local, and having incredibly impressive credentials, Nick works primarily with runners at my level and above. Often a long, long way above! This really appealed to me and happily Nick was able to take me on. We met in early July in a coffee shop and after one meeting I was even more certain I’d made the right choice.

The experience working with Nick and the rest of his Running With Us team has been fantastic, and the benefits I have reaped have vastly exceeded my expectations.   There are many components to the Running With Us package, including:

The Training Schedule

First and foremost, there is the training schedule.  As with most coaching packages, every fortnight I get a fresh, custom training schedule tailored to my goals and my needs.  Working with Nick, I have increased the volume and the intensity of my training to a level that I would never have achieved without his guidance.  This time last year, a 40 mile week would have been a real biggie for me but now I regularly exceed 50 miles and have peaked at a 64 mile week.  I’m also completing more intense sessions than ever before and have introduced double days (running twice a day) typically once, but sometimes twice, a week. The basic structure of a training week is not rocket science – a mixture of interval sessions, easy runs and a weekly long run – and all coaches have their “bread and butter” sessions that crop up frequently. The real skill, however, is in knowing which sessions to schedule when for maximum effectiveness for each individual runner.

Group Track Sessions

The biggest unexpected benefit of working with Nick has come from weekly group track training sessions at the New River stadium in North London. Every Tuesday evening, come rain or shine, I head up to not-so-lovely Wood Green to chase a bunch of great runners round a track. These sessions are superb. Week after week I hit paces I could never manage by myself.  Some of the group are phenomenally quick, including some very talented youngsters or “pocket rockets” as Nick calls them, but some of the guys are about my level, which is essential. I only wish I had discovered group training sooner!  These weekly sessions also provide valuable face to face time with Nick. A few encouraging words here or a little technique tip there make a big difference.

Strength & Conditioning

The resident strength and conditioning specialist at Running With Us is the fantastic Phoebe Thomas. Phoebe has created a custom strength programme for me, which is helping me to avoid injuries and run better. Whilst I will never enjoy this aspect of training, knowing that the work will be effective helps me to stay (relatively) disciplined in getting it done.

On top of all that, through training with Nick, I have discovered cross-country racing which has in turn lead me to join a club, but more of that another day!

My results since working with Nick have been very pleasing.  I’ve lowered my 5k PB from 19:08 to 18:36, my 10k PB from 39:45 to 38:03 and my half marathon PB from 1:27:22 to 1:22:56. The half marathon PB, at the Great Scottish Run in Glasgow, was my running highlight of the year. This was one of only two or three times since I started running that my race performance was way beyond my most ambitious target.

When Sam was coaching me for the marathon I saw it as a short-term arrangement to help me with the race. With Nick, it’s a long-term project. We have some big targets for next year and I will reveal all in my next post!


One Response to “The Next Level”

  1. […] what on earth makes me think this is achievable? In the second half of 2013 I have made some big improvements, lowering my 10k PB to 38:03 and my half marathon PB to 1:22:56. The latter is particularly […]

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