I was asked by On Track Athletics and Off Track and Running to write a series of articles about race walking, called #WalkingWednesday. The first article is simple: what every athlete and athletics fan needs to know.
Blog - Lessons from athletics
The final stage of training – 8 things you need to do now for your upcoming marathon or endurance event
As you approach a big event, your focus and excitement build. Training usually becomes more intense as now is the time to make sure all of your hard work pays off. In the Ancient Olympics, athletes were brought to Elis for a month of compulsory, strict training to make sure that they were up to standard. If you are running the London or another spring marathon, you will probably be thinking about your final block of serious training before tapering down in preparation. Realistically, it is too late to start from scratch but this will be the difference between achieving your goals or not.
In December I travelled to Ireland for a 20km race and returned with a small PB. The race had been a struggle as I misjudged my fitness and paced it poorly. I resolved to rest over Christmas and then start 2019 hunting for some better performances. To that end, I competed in the Murray Lambden Open 20km in the Isle of Man and gained a more satisfying result.
As a self-coached athlete, I put a lot of thought into my training – why do I need to do a certain session? why am I even doing it in the first place? I believe that sport (and anything we do) should be accompanied by some sort of philosophy or at least a reason. I am always wary of being influenced by habit or groupthink. However, sometimes I am guilty of over-thought and perhaps I ought to spend less energy worrying about my training and just focus on doing it. And is it necessary for us to know why we are doing it? Do our reasons and motivations affect the benefits we gain from exercise?
When talking to non-endurance athletes, I am often questioned about the mental capacity to keep going for 4 hours or more. In particular, the technical demands of race walking make it a serious mental challenge as well as an obviously physical one. How do you stay focussed? How do you not get bored? Are you tempted to stop/break into a run? Well, the mind can be trained just as we can train the muscles and energy systems.
After my win at the National 50km Championships in September, I was left with two contradictory inclinations. One on hand, I had completed my third 50km of the year and felt it was time for some recovery. On the other, I had been unable to convert my best ever run of training and fitness into a fast time so I wanted one more go. Ultimately, I opted for both, because paradoxes are always entertaining. I decided to enter the Irish 20km championships to see if I could make the most of my hard work, but at the same time I took plenty of time to rest and try to recuperate.