It has been some time since my last post, during which my running has seen a few developments.

Let’s start with the good part – the City of Stirling 10k road race. In my last post I indicated that the training had gone well and I felt strong. On the morning of the race, I felt really good during my warm-up – the legs felt strong with a spring and nice and loose. I wanted to beat 39mins which would have given me one of my top 3 times. When the race started I couldn’t spot any of my usual fellow runners that I know would give me a good challenging pace. I set off and ran more on instinct than usual without being dictated to by anyone else’s rhythm. I still had my pace being provided by my precious Suunto so was aware that I was around my target. At the 6k mark I suddenly realised that I was well inside my target with the watch showing 23mins. From previous years I knew that the last few kilometres were more of a challenge and so it proved. I found the 8th and 9th kilometres harder and dropped speed a little. The 9k marker gave me the spur I needed and I made a deliberate attempt to chase down a few other runners.  At Stirling I always find that one second you are on the road and the next thing the finish is in front of you. A nice little sprint to pass another runner on the final straight and I punched “stop” on the Suunto. I had broken 38mins for the first time and taken more than a minute off by PB.

Even my first ice bath did not diminish the glow for the remainder of the day. All of the hard work had been vindicated and I now felt that I had the ability to shoot for sub 37mins, something that would have seemed like madness only 15 months ago.

I launched straight back into training and hammered out a solid 8 x 800m intervals on the track on Tuesday. On Thursday I did my usual hill repeats, adding a 6th rep and secured some good times. It was only when I going fast on a fartlek after the hills that I felt a stab in my left calf.

Plenty of ice settled it down sufficiently for me to convince myself that Falkirk parkrun would be ok on Saturday, after all, it was only 5km and I would just take it easy. It started fine. I went off with the leading pack to stay out of trouble but happily let the leaders take the pace on. When I hit the initial hill I found that the slower pace had given me more reserves than usual. The first hill seemed less demanding than usual and once I got to the top I found I had passed a handful of runners, was running freely and was on the shoulder of some guys I should have probably allowed to go off and have their own race.  My own natural pace suddenly had me in front of them and heading for “Heartbreak Hill” at 3km. At the top, my legs and lungs protested as usual and a minute or so later I had been passed but also caught my breath. I ran the last 1km feeling good and finished with a time just beyond 19mins and a few seconds outside my PB. This for a run where I was taking it easy!

I got home and applied ice but by mid afternoon my calf felt like it had been kicked by a horse. I ran 12km today instead of the  22km training target. Even with that my calf was still solid and sore. I am going to have a break for a few days and see how things are with a gentle run later this week.

Only 5 weeks to Jedburgh Half Marathon.


Great Training: Now Time to Race

On September 14, 2011, in PB, racing, running, Training, by Alf

I have now had a great run of solid training. Since mid July I have been stepping up the program, and as I gradually increase my training frequency and intensity, I really feel the difference in my strength and fitness.  Also, while my actual weight has altered little, I feel leaner, with clothes just a little looser. More to the point, during my runs I feel stronger, have more spring in my stride and am hitting faster rep times.

In the 9 weeks of the new plan I have had an enforced break of one week during business travel. By chance this actually coincided with a physio recommended rest period after the Granton 10k. As I was race fit before the trip/rest, I actually came back strong, refreshed and with a new sense of purpose.

I have never before immersed myself in training the way I am right now. Recurring injuries had previously convinced me to cut back to 3 quality runs per week. This helped me post a sequence of new 10k PBs last year, but in my opinion limits how far I can progress. In early summer I took the decision to very carefully increase the load while being diligent in icing my Achilles after each run, regardless of how it felt. This seems to have worked well so far and I am now up at 4 running days:

  • Saturday – tough hilly parkrun – 5km
  • Sunday – long slow run – 20km (and increasing weekly)
  • Tuesday – speed work on track – 10km
  • Thursday – hill work plus some fartlek – 11km

The track runs seems to be getting more controlled, almost comfortable. The recovery from the long runs is no worse now than when the runs were only 8km. Most importantly, the strength is good and no sign of any recurrence of the dreaded tendonitis.

It is time to test things out in a race, and much as I like to train, I can’t wait to line up and wait for the gun. The work I have put in should be ideally suited to a 10k race, and with Stirling due on Sunday I am looking forward to testing the new me over the course. If conditions are good then I would like to think that sub 39mins was a possibility.

Please let there be no wind.


Yasso 800s vs. Tupper Twelves

On September 8, 2011, in running, Training, Yasso 800, by Alf

As I continue to adapt my training for the marathon push, I have giving more thought to my interval training.  For the last few years I have been including a weekly interval session as part of my training.  I wanted to find a way of building up my ability to sustain my speed during races. With my race target being 10k I felt that 1200m intervals would provide a great endurance boost when it came to competing in races. For interval training I prefer the steady repeatability of my local track.  Distances are provided for me, and with no obstacles I can concentrate on speed, breathing and form.  There is also something a little inspiring for me in running around a real track.

Tupper Twelves

I eventually settled on the following interval workout

  1. 5 laps (2,000m) warm-up, gently increasing the pace
  2. 3 laps (1200m) fast.  Effectively as fast as I can sustain for 3 laps and faster than 10k race speed
  3. 1 lap slow. I set a rule that I don’t walk, but take enough time to get my heart rate
    back to around 130bpm.  Zig-zagging around the track to give more time is perfectly acceptable to me. The key is to ensure that you get maximum benefit from the fast section, so getting the body ready is important
  4. Repeat #2 and #3 to give 5-6 total repetitions
  5. 1-2 laps at the end to cool down

This takes some practice. If you are doing it right, then it should be tough.  There have been sessions where I was ready to be sick at the end of a 1200m rep. I started incorporating the Twelves as part of my training plan at a time when I was becoming more focussed on achieving results.  When combined with my longer runs and some hill work, I was able to steadily shave around 4 minutes off my 10k times. In addition, my races were much more controlled – I felt that I was more aware of my speed and able to adapt during a race and push harder when required.

For me there are a few disadvantages of the Twelves.  Firstly, I know that some people don’t like running repeatedly around a track and the prospect of running full speed for 3 laps is likely not a running incentive. Secondly, when I was running Twelves as part of my routine I invariably found that my fragile Achilles’ tendon started to protest.

Yasso 800s

Bart Yasso is Chief Running Officer at Runner’s World and has put his name to the “Yasso 800s”. Unsurprisingly, it is based on 800m repeats so has an obvious attraction over the Tupper Twelves!  Part of the principle of Yasso 800s is that if you step this up until you can carry out 10 total reps then this is a valuable part of a marathon training plan.  Further, Bart says that your steady repeatable performance in the 10x reps provides as guide to your marathon time if the 800s are combined as part of your overall marathon training plan. For example, if you can regularly repeat your 800 intervals in 3min 30s then Bart suggests that you should be in shape for completing a marathon in 3hr 30min.  It is important to note that this is no training panacea, but one component in a bigger plan.

I had been aware of the Bart Yasso’s 800m interval plan for some time, but had my own interval plan and was happy with the results.  Having just entered my first marathon I have to confess to being intrigued at the time I could achieve.  While I personally feel that the Yasso 800 model for a marathon prediction is likely optimistic, I wanted to start giving myself new measures.  Remember that I love goals and data.  I have now run Yasso 800s twice on the track – 6x and then 7x reps.  After the Tupper Twelves for years it was a great release and I felt more able to push the limit further, safe in the knowledge that it would soon be over.  I feel that my control over speed is improving quickly and my Achilles’ is showing no sign of trouble.

I plan on sticking exclusively with Yasso 800s for the next couple of months and then start to alternate between 800s and Twelves over the winter. More information on the Yasso 800s can be found at

I would be pleased to discuss the topic further on Twitter or by email at  I am especially interested in feedback regarding the accuracy of Yasso 800s as a marathon predictor as part of a full training plan.


My First Marathon – Edinburgh 2012

On September 3, 2011, in Marathon, racing, running, by Alf

My big running goals know no bounds.  I have never done a marathon and always thought that the distance was too far for me.  I still do.  Despite that, I have just taken the plunge and entered the Edinburgh Marathon in May 2012.

Despite the advancing years I am hitting PBs in my 10k races, but more I importantly I am really enjoying my training.  It struck me that with my enthusiasm for even the harder aspects of my training there was an opportunity to be exploited.

I have also decided that I want to do a marathon and push myself to new limits.  I am under no illusions and know it is going to be tough. My training has reached the point where I look forward to every session and relish pushing the boundaries further and further.  It seems natural that I should make the next goal a highly significant one while my physical and mental state is robust.  Strangely, I find that right now I want the challenge of the training more than the race itself.  I am really looking forward to working through the plan for the next 9 months.

One of the main factors is my desire to deliver a time I am satisfied with.  My mentality will not allow me to be happy with just saying “I did a marathon”.  Sub 3hr 30min is my current goal.  I’m hoping that I am thinking in more aggressive terms in a couple of months, but I need to get my body used to racing further than 10k before I figure out how the speed will hold up.  Competing in my first half marathon in years next month will give me a better idea of a realistic target.

I am going to change my running radically, but in increments to try to avoid the dreaded injuries – my Achilles’ heel is my right Achilles’ tendon.   I am dropping most of my 10k road races in order that I can use the weekend time for my long runs.  The long runs on the Sunday are increasing steadily until the half marathon and then continuing towards the marathon over the winter.

There is one guarantee – it will be a PB!  I can take some comfort from that.

The countdown is on, quite literally if you look to the right hand side of the blog.