I was at Mike Ryan’s talk a few weeks ago, and he said that if he’d stayed in Scotland he doesn’t think he’d ever have won an Olympic bronze medal. We want to change that. If Lydiard could do it in New Zealand, Mike Johnston, Ron Morrison and the rest of us can do it in Scotland.
One of the few benefits of getting old is that you have a longer perspective and can see trends that you’re unaware of as you live through them – mileage increase, peaking, diet manipulations, altitude, training in groups, to name but a few of the main ones.
The training diaries of my years as a reasonable runner, though to me they seem to have been written just the other day, were in fact covering a period from 1965 to 1986, i.e. from 45 to 24 years ago. Where has the time gone?
There seem looking back to have been certain periods when marathon running has flourished and not flourished in various places from its inception at the end of the 19th Century to date. This is a very rough sketch without dragging in too much detail – just to provide background.
The first races were contested by amateurs and some others by professionals. Len Hurst (Pro) won 40 km races as fast as 2:25 (1890s). The OG 1896 Spiridon Louis race from Marathon to Athens raised great enthusiasm for the event (around 25 miles on that occasion) though one eye witness reckons Louis, like the 3rd placed runner who was disqualified, cheated by getting a lift on a horse. The first woman, Stamatis Ravithi, also a Greek, ran a marathon too in March 1896, just after the Greek marathon trial race-she wasn’t allowed to run with the men.
The first “Scottish marathon” in Scotland was held in conjunction with a Scottish National Exhibition in 1908 from Linlithgow to Edinburgh but it was only over 16 miles and won by W T Clarke (Sefton H) in 1:23:54.2. Tom Jack (ESH) was the first Scot to run in the OG marathon in 1908, but went
off too fast (1st mile in 5:01.4, 2 miles in 10:11, 5 miles 27.01) and he dropped out.
Progress in Scotland was very slow till the 1920s. The SAAA held a 25 mile trial before the Stockholm Olympics in 1912 in Glasgow, won by William Maxwell (Grange H) in 2:54:48.4 but he didn’t go to Stockholm, though eight British runners did. Only HH Green who was 12th in 2:52 was faster.
Dunky Wright (b Nov 1896) got into the OG team three times (dropped out in Paris 1924, 20th in Amsterdam 1928, 4th in Los Angeles 1932. In Paris and Amsterdam six places were available; in Los Angeles 1932 there would have been three but Donald Robertson[b Oct 1905] couldn’t afford to take time off his work to travel. According to Dunky he and Sam Ferris of the RAF were the only non-Achilles team members and were chosen “because we had to have two in the marathon”.
Between them Robertson and Wright, training in a group with Maryhill H, won a number of AAA or Polytechnic races – the only ones there were in the UK usually - DMW won the Poly in 1924 and 1934, the AAA in 1930 and 31, while DMR won the AAA in 32,33.34, 36,37,39 – astonishing. He was the first Scot probably to run regularly 100 miles a week, it has been suggested. (SAAA Centenary Book)
In the pre WW2 period there was no very obviously superior nation – the Finns could challenge for that, as they dominated distances up to the marathon, but there was considerable development of the event in other European countries and in the US and Canada. After 1908 there was a three year spell of pro races and in amateur ranks events like the Polytechnic Marathon (Windsor to Chiswick) were established. Scotland had no marathon championship till 1946, when Dunky persuaded the SAAA to hold one. The SMC was started around this time and people like Dunky and Jimmy Scott were instrumental in promoting road races round the country – as one long time member wrote: “Jimmy did the work and Dunky took the credit”.
Things stuttered along through the 40s and 50s, great losses being the the retiral in 1946 of Dunky at the age of 50 and the sudden death of Donald McNab Robertson in 1949 aged 43RM.
The best exponents after them were Charlie Robertson (Dundee Thistle) and then Joe McGhee, who of course won at the Empire Games in Vancouver in 1954 and was sadly libelled by Norris McWhirter who ignorantly wrote that Joe was lying in a ditch waiting for an ambulance when he was told Jim Peters had succumbed to the heat and failed to finish. An example of Anglocentric reporting! Hardly any press were interested in following the race as they all wanted to watch Bannister vs Landy in the mile. What really happened – McGhee’s story: “Any athlete who has ever run a marathon will assure you that if you stop for more than a second or two, especially in the closing stages, you will never get started again (even more so if you have apparently decided to lie down!). At no time did I collapse. On one occasion only, I tripped momentarily on the kerb. Over the last four miles, indeed, I was engaged in a very active race pulling away from the two South Africans, Jackie Mekler and Johann Barnard, who had come close at 22 miles. I never knew that I was first until I was near the stadium and, indeed, at that time I was absolutely delighted to be finishing second.”
He goes on to deny that he was exhausted: (1) the photo of the finish shows him sprinting through the tape, both feet off the ground; (2) a photo shows him assisting Johannes Barnard on to the rostrum; and (3) he danced all evening till the early hours at the closing ball and was up at 6 am for a visit to Seattle.
Over this post war period there were 12-15 sub 3 hour performances per year in Scotland (as established by Alex Wilson in Germany).
In the 1960s there was a great international resurgence – after the first African marathon victors Ahmed Boughera El Ouafi (1928) and Alain Mimoun (1956), both Algerian-born but running for France, the Ethiopian Abebe Bikila, coming from a completely different background but coached by a Finn, Onni Niskanen, just beat the Moroccan Rhadi Ben Abdesselem barefoot in Rome and again won, this time in Puma shoes*, by 4 mins in Tokio. Other leading nations in the 1960s included Japan, the US and the UK.
*Bikila’s biographer states he ran in Asics Tigers, but photos clearly show him in white Pumas with black emblem on the sides. He was actively courted by adidas and Tiger as well.
The Scots Alastair Wood and Jim Alder got down to regular times under 2:20 in the later 1960s and were joined by Fergus Murray, Mel Edwards and me. Fergus had won the Poly in 1967 with a 2:19 clocking, then, coming back from a year’s “retirement” from athletics, ran the first sub 2:20 race in Scotland at Shettleston in 1969 [2:18:30], AJW being second also inside 2:20. Mel won the Harlow in 2:18:25 while Alastair had been 4th in the European Championship in 1966 and Jim of course won at the Empire and Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica the same year – the selectors probably made a mistake by not sending Wood as well – nothing new there!
I should also record the pioneering work done by Dale Greig in the 1960s in getting women accepted as participants in marathons. Eventually she won out and is recognised by the IAAF as holding the 1st official World best time for a woman with her 3.27.45 in the 1964 Isle of Wight race.
In the late 60s and through the 70s Scots went through a renaissance – I ran at two BCG and one Olympics while Jim Alder won a European bronze and was outstanding in Edinburgh (2:12:04 for silver). Fergus ran 2:15:32 for 7th and I was 8th in 2:16:53.
Liz McColgan is the outstanding Scottish woman marathon runner to date:
1991 NYC 2:27:32 1st
1992 Tokyo 2:27:38 1st
1996 London 2:27:54 1st
1996 Atlanta OG 16th 2:34:30
Thus you can see that Liz McColgan is head and shoulders above the rest, but Kathy Butler ran 2:28:39 in 2006 (Chicago) and had a baby last year, so she may be back. Hayley Haining, even more recently a mother, has also dipped under 2:30 (2:29:18 at London in 2008), while Susan Partridge (2:35:57 in London 2010) and others are getting closer to the once magic 2 and a half hours – maybe Freya Murray in a year or two? It is notable that Freya Murray has chosen to spend periods abroad, as have many other runners - not just in the US or Canada but also in Japan and England.
Andrew Lemoncello is based abroad but returns regularly to the UK. He has the advantage of training in a group of good athletes over in the US and Freya is advised by Steve Jones, a 2:07 runner!
The Scottish ranking lists right through to the mid 80s show consistent good times, and some brilliant individual performances including wins by John Graham in Rotterdam (2:09:28, 1981) and by Allister Hutton in London (2:09:16 1985) who both ran under 2:10, but obviously not in Scotland.
A training group needs a “role model” – Alastair Wood, Fergus Murray, Jim Dingwall come to mind, in the same way as Hannes Kolehmainen and Paavo Nurmi were models for a generation of Finnish runners and Kip Keino for Kenyans.
The Ethiopians and Kenyans run in big groups – that raises the general standard, When there is a group with acknowledged champions, as was the case in the 1965-85 period, ordinary runners ran faster because everyone else did. Times that are now winning male 10ks would not have got you in the first dozen or more thirty years ago. Women are a bit better because women’s running has developed more recently and is catching up faster.
World standards have soared over the past 40 years, and 2:10 long ago became almost everyday in terms of top class running. But 2:10 in Scotland has only been done once, in 1970 by Ron Hill, on the only windless race day on the A1 in recorded memory – he was ahead of his time. 2:10 is practically impossible in Scotland unless you have a flat course, a very good field, and perfect conditions.
Since 1990 there have been intermittent flashes of glory for Scots but few and far between, though we hope that with Andrew Lemoncello the men will have something to cheer about soon – but he must be joined by others.
The marathon over the past 20 or 30 years has become a sort of dual event – at the front end high quality fields contested by professionals who train at altitude, live in camps or are members of training schools, or run in small groups of individuals with or without a coach, but generally following the same principles – and then there are the fun type charity fund raising races, contested by huge numbers who celebrate finishing but are less concerned with concentration or times. Neither is better than the other, but I am here to talk about the first, and how we can effect a transformation if possible of athletes from cross-country and track or from casual running into top performing marathon competitors.
Looking at the results I have given you might say we have a pretty good record, but it’s like football only more so – it’s an illusion: we have had 6 runners take part in an Olympic marathon, five male and one female, since 1896: Tom Jack, Dunky, DMR, Jim Alder, me and Liz McColgan) Scottish marathon runners have won only seven medals at major championships – and that is by four people:
Duncan Wright EG 1930 gold 2:43:43
Joe McGhee EG gold 1954 2:39:36
Jim Alder BECG gold 1966 2:22:08
Donald Robertson EG 1934 silver 2:45:08
Jim Alder European 1969 silver 2:19:06
Jim Alder BCG 1970 silver 2:12:04
Duncan Wright 1934 EG bronze 2:56:20.
Last one in 1970!
Play first half of Dunky CD
What are the secrets?
You could say there are none – it’s just down to hard work 90% and 10% talent, though of course there are many other factors.
I have divided these into 7 groups, mainly because 7 is a lucky number – it could have been 19! I’ll list them now and come back to each in turn:
(2) mileage , training sensibly, getting advice, training in groups
(3) where and when you race, peaking
(4) visualisation and pre-race prep
(5) altitude, diet, equipment
(6) work and family
(7) injuries and mistakes
1 a Enjoyment
Athletics must be about enjoyment and not used as an arm of government policy, so that while we want to raise standards it should be through encouragement and not external pressure. As ever, a compromise is the solution that we should aim for and avoid extremes: an amateur approach, i.e. you love your sport but are aware that you live in a professional world, i.e. where you get paid. Music is an apt comparison – you would not expect professional musicians to perform for nothing, but to have the three best orchestras is not regarded as essential for international prestige.
1 b Self-image
Our athletes have as much potential as anyone else. In my career I beat as many Ethiopians as beat me - although they weren't so highly developed as a running nation then, and I was ignorant of the terrible conditions practically all Ethiopians lived in then. [A lot of improvement has been brought to some Ethiopians by the employment and other benefits created by such as Gebreselassie and others, and in Kenya by Kip Keino and others.]
One of the best ways to become aware of how good we could be is international competition – let us get our ambitious and talented athletes running in big marathons and cross-country races abroad, seek sponsorship specifically to send them - as we had for a short period from Marathon Oil in the 80s. Since Scotland lost its place in the World CC performances have gone down. They may be on the way up again but need encouragement and experience. Don't give promising athletes just one chance, but three or four - they may come good at the 3rd or 4th attempt.
2 a Mileage
I believe that a relatively high mileage is the basis of success at all running events above 400m. Many athletes, however, increase their training mileage much too quickly and thus get injured, ill or brassed off – “stale” was the term used long ago. It takes years to become a marathon runner, and usually several races to become a good one. “Good” in my book means, for men, sub-2:20, probably the very rough equivalent of a four minute mile [Jim Peters recorded the first sub 2:20 times around the Bannister era], and for women sub 2:35 or 2:40. That is not to dismiss slower runners, but you have no chance of selection for any of the major Games unless you can run faster than those times. But on the other hand it is unrealistic to insist on pre-selection standards that are beyond competitors living in Scotland if they are not given the chance to compete internationally, not just once but three or even four times as I have said. A glance at Ron Hill’s record, outlined in AW on July 29, shows that he had a very up and down career before reaching his peak.
It is only very exceptional talents like Abebe Bikila or Haile Gebreselassie who seem superhuman – and even they have had their misfortunes.
How much mileage? That is difficult, but I believe that in today’s world top runners should over the 12 week build up period for a big race be averaging 100-130 mpw, perhaps more depending on circumstances. Most of it should be “slow”, again a relative term, and it is easiest if you fit in two or occasionally even three sessions a day. Each week should include a long run – not too long in winter as you may get chilled, perhaps up to 2hrs but dressed for the conditions, and in the summer 2-3 hours. At the end of these you need to rehydrate, eat plenty of carbohydrate, and sleep or at least rest. I’ll go into this in more detail in a moment but I can’t see much wrong with a typical week of long run/easy fartlek/steady/short interval session on grass or woodland/ more easy fartlek, easy running, and the occasional race over 5km or 10km- not too often and not bothering too much about the result. Each day Mon/Fri should also have a 20—30 min short run (steady or fartlek, which is often more interesting and brings quicker benefits) in the morning or at lunchtime.
2 b Train sensibly: mileage is important, but it has to be made up in the right proportions - slowish running for most of the runs, easy fartlek (Lasse Viren had a lot of this with pulse around 80-90 bpm) once or twice a week (max) a short hard reps session (up to 170bpm for LV) or hard fartlek - it's not sprint speed most runners lack but speed endurance. And that takes time - think in years not months, don't move up to the marathon until you can run a decent 5 or 10k. Don’t try to run hard on three successive days. For a half-mara or mara, if you average 1/3 of the race distance per day over the last 6 weeks you should be OK. I would recommend 100-130 per week (mostly slow) for top class runners after a few years experience. Even 1500 runners need a big mileage period a la Lydiard.
2 c Place
Where should you train? My own view is that where roads can be avoided, they should be, By preference train in the woods (more oxygen) or by the sea, on country lanes and over hills.
Do your speedwork on grass where practical and keep the track for special occasions – it’s like the stage for actors. Of course there is no absolute prohibition on roads or track, as you have to get used to racing on all surfaces. Just avoid ice or fog if you can or heavily congested roads with nasty fumes.
2 d Training in groups: the focus in Edinburgh in the 1960s and 70s was "the Zoo" (78 Morningside Drive) where every Sunday there was a long run starting at 11 via Balerno, the Pentlands and Flotterstone, taking around 2-2.5 hours, starting slowly and finishing steady to hard downhill from Fairmilehead. Participants in that informal squad included Fergus Murray, Gareth Bryan-Jones, Martin Craven, Dave Logue, Alex and Jim Wight, Ian Young, John Bryant, Chris Elson, and myself - Olympic runners, GB internationalists, Commonwealth Games athletes etc. For a period Aberdeen had 11 top Scottish marathon runners, most of whom trained together on occasion. There must have been similar "nodes" of training to produce Jim Brown, Ian McCafferty etc and of course in Birmingham there were the Stewarts and Birchfield H.
The clubs or perhaps more easily the leading athletes in each of our cities should get together and arrange for a regular number of sessions on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays or whatever.
2 e Getting advice
Read as much about running as you can, to give you perspective. Use libraries and buy copies if you can afford to.
Biographies or autobiographies of runners from Len Hurst (in A R Downer’s “Running Recollections”) to Charlie Spedding will bring you so much information, but when you boil it down it will all be much the same.
Perhaps I should say something about coaches. Ron Hill and Jim Alder believe that successful marathon runners don’t need a coach, and that may have suited them. However for “coach” you could substitute fellow-competitors or books by coaches and runners. In my own case I never had a regular coach, though for a short period I had a little help from John Anderson, who emphasised that I should do a bit more speed endurance stuff. Most runners, perhaps I should say all runners, need regular training partners. A coach is not dissimilar. Successful coaches have been behind many groups of athletes in all countries and they do not always get the credit they deserve. Often runners become coaches, but success as an athlete does not necessarily mean you will be a successful coach. I won’t give current examples, but Emil Zatopek was one outstanding athlete who never really produced a successor in the CSSR. On the other hand some coaches who themselves were more moderate talents or even did not compete at all – Peter Coe, Arthur Lydiard, Bill Bowerman – achieved great things with lots of athletes or with a single one in the case of Coe. Whether it is the athlete or the coach who brings most to success is hard to differentiate, and in the end it doesn’t matter. Sometimes these partnerships outgrow their usefulness and then the athlete sometimes moves to another coach or decides to train without a coach. So no hard and fast rules – everyone is different. Problems arise when attempts are made to treat people in a totalitarian way. As in bringing up children, guidance and example rather than the iron fist and medieval discipline are best.
Coaches should be prepared to pass an athlete on when he or she has learned all that coach can teach. That has been the case, to give the best example I know personally, of Lemoncello who went from Dave Francis to Ron Morrison to a not so great coach in the US but now has a very good one – and still gets advice from Ron and occasionally me.
Bill Scally wrote an article a year or two ago in which he said that runners tend to be overcoached and undertrained – athletes can best learn from each other.
3 a Races
Race infrequently at your main event: marathon runners should do short races, road relays, track 3km etc to make their own event pace seem easier. Don't do more than 2 or at most 3 marathons in a year, and don't experiment just before them or worse during them with gels or strange drinks. Make sure you can handle these before trying them. Same goes for diet manipulation - no point in trying that until you can do 2:20 or so.
I was never a very good track runner but when in marathon top form I could do 5km in 14.09, was once fastest at the McAndrew, was only 1 sec behind Mike Freary on leg 1 at the AAA 12 stage relay.
Andrew Lemoncello has run 13.33 for 5k, 27.57 for 10K.
If you peak successfully you can beat people who ordinarily would beat you. For a big marathon you can peak by making sure your build-up period, your mileage, your allocation of effort and speed to your sessions, your rest, diet and sleep, your mental preparation are all right. It’s not easy, but it can be done. I don’t agree with Menzies Campbell when he wrote in 1969 that running was about winning and status – maybe it is for sprinters, but for distance runners the full quotation of de Coubertin is what we believe in:
“The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” Same thing in “If”.
We don’t retire unless we have to, we don’t give up but keep going. We help each other with advice and mutual support of various kinds, we don’t cheat and we run fair.
3 c Location of Races
It’s good that we have some regular marathons and half-marathons in Scotland, but I think it’s much better if we can attract the top runners to the Scottish championship at the same stadium as the rest of the track and field. This year’s atmosphere and spectator numbers at Pitreavie were disappointing. The best stadium in Scotland is at Scotstoun and that’s where the championships should be – unless Hampden is developed for the BCG for 2014.
2014 itself will give Scottish athletes an incentive, and despite not such great performances now, I would expect to see some people rise to the occasion. That was the case in 1969/1970, when little success was predicted the year before, and for New Zealanders in 1973/74 where they started off with a great win in the 10km. That had happened in 1970, and this year again in the Europeans at Barcelona. Maybe a win in the 10km for the home country is the key to overall success!
4 a Visualisation
One of the techniques recommended for sports performers and others is visualisation. You imagine yourself winning or achieving whatever it is you want to do. Practise that every day before, after or during your running and it is more likely to come true. One early form of that used by me was before the SCCU National in 1965 when I went through the main rivals the night before in a notebook and scored out the ones I thought I could beat…Maybe I should have used that at the Olympics but was more worried about getting to the start in one piece because of an Achilles problem, and then in finishing to remember to visualise winning a medal.
By the way – I think it’s hubristic to talk up your chances publicly before a race. You may feel you can do it, but no need to tell anyone. Let your feet do the talking and speak about it afterwards – otherwise it’s asking for trouble and putting extra pressure on yourself. Look what happened to Dave Bedford and Paula Radcliffe before the Olympics in 1972 and 2004 after the media built them up as favourites. In the run up to the Dundee marathons in 1983 and 1984 I was careful in the articles and interviews I did in the Courier to label other people as favourites, though in reality I knew very well that I was.
4 b Pre-race
Drink plenty before any long races, and get enough sleep. Before a marathon, jog 4 -3 -2 or so miles on last 3 days (just to keep bowels in order). If you feel like a day off, best have the second last day, get a good sleep that night in case you are nervous and can't sleep the night before the race.
Get yourself in the right frame of mind (see Charlie Spedding’s chapter about the LA Olympics in his book From Last to First). Before warming up (practically none is needed for marathon, but a prolonged warm-up for anything else) lie down somewhere quiet, close your eyes and imagine you're in a nice place out for an easy run. Remind yourself why you are doing this - not as punishment, but as pleasure. You want to do it, you are just as good as everyone else, visualise yourself leading, crossing the line, get up (don't fall asleep!) and jog around for a few minutes, have a toilet visit...
5 a Diet
While training, eat a normal diet, avoid unusual foods near to races. A mixed diet gives you plenty vitamins etc, but women especially have to watch iron levels if training hard. Drink plenty but stick to moderate alcohol consumption – we have all heard of runners who drank to excess and still ran well, but they are exceptions. Do I need to say don’t smoke or take drugs? Surely not.
Lead as normal a life as you can. Running should be as much part of your routine as whatever else you do every day. If you go to training camps or to altitude try to establish a routine as close as you can get to what it is at home. Running and talking and thinking about running morning noon and night is unhealthy. Do other things, develop other interests.
I found I often had to eat something before training, but if you eat too close to it or eat too much you may feel sick. Take in some carbohydrate within an hour of finishing a session, eg banana or bread and jam plus a hot drink or juice or water. As mentioned earlier, experiment with any gels in case you get problems with them in the race. I always drank water and used sponges – keep your thighs, face and head and shoulders moist if you can.
5 b Altitude
In the 60s and 70s athletes went to altitude as guinea-pigs, and the written up results were inconclusive. One of the things I am often asked is why Ron Hill performed so relatively poorly in Munich. As many of you will know, a group of endurance athletes was sent to St Moritz in Switzerland (not Biarritz by the Atlantic as my old classmate Renton Laidlaw said in a radio interview he did with me in 1972) to train at altitude. I went down with most of the group on a date ten days before the marathon. Ron Hill decided to spend some time with his family, who had been staying in a not very salubrious establishment down the road from the group hotel, and to come down three days later. We were both doing the Saltin depletion diet, and I was taking the opportunity to see exactly what he was doing – not hard as we were sharing a room. The diet began a week before the race. You went on a on a long run and then reduced drastically the amount of carbohydrate in your diet, By pure coincidence I was down in Munich before starting the depletion part of the diet, which I did on Saturday 2 September, the race being scheduled for Saturday 9th. It was moved back a day following the terrible events of the Tuesday and Wednesday when the Israeli athletes were killed.
Ron Hill did his depletion run in St Moritz, whether on the Friday or the Saturday is not clear from his book. In any event he came down three days after me, and noted that “someone had said that at altitude the glycogen content of the muscles can go down by 30%; I daren’t think about that; I had to do what I had to do.” My view, which I can’t substantiate as I am not a physiologist, is that it was for that reason – he did not allow himself sufficient time before the race for his muscles to regain the proper level of carbohydrate – that he was just a little below par. I don’t think he accepts that, and I know Ian Stewart and Brendan Foster who were also up at St Moritz think he wasn’t as fit as he should have been. But I was closest to him in those days leading up to the race, and there has to be a reason for him running 2:16 rather than 2:12. By good luck I got it more r less right, and he got it slightly wrong.
But now more is known about the effects, so that stays at altitude are regularly used. Scottish athletes should be afforded the chance to go to altitude, to Font Romeu for example as a group did in 1968, at appropriate times. Who in Scottish athletics understands altitude training? I don’t know if Mike is an expert on it, but if there’s no one we should seek advice from those who are.
5 c Equipment
Dress for the conditions. I think it’s not good to do too long runs in winter – you can get too chilled. Build ups of 12 weeks are long enough, but you need recovery periods too. I adhered to a Lydiard type of routine but possibly did not do enough short interval track work, eg 8x300 with 1 min (on grass or sand or in woods) – you have to gauge track work to avoid injury.
Shoes are obviously vital. I favour the hypothesis that the ideal shoe allows you to feel you are running barefoot but has sufficient protection to avoid injury. Some believe that over-protective footwear causes problems requiring orthotics. Barefoot on grass or sand or in shallow water is very good for your feet and legs.
Have more than one pair of shoes so that you don’t keep running day in day out in wet shoes. In the race if you run without socks use Lanolin or Vaseline and tape up your toes first. Vaseline is also good for nipple or jock rub. On a very cold day use cooking oil on your exposed skin to keep out the chill.
6 a Work
I think you can guess my views on work – it is not sensible for a runner to depend only on running to keep the wolf from the door. I would always advise an athlete to enter a job or profession. Professional athletics is only worth it for the very few, and I feel that the funding will not necessarily continue. It is not a comfortable feeling having to depend on lottery funding, handouts from relatives – and anyway to feel you are dependent does nothing for your self-confidence as a performer.
As Sir Chris Hoy said a couple of weeks ago in a Herald interview: “Your career only lasts so long. You know that when it ends you’ll have to do normal things and lead a normal life.”
6 b Family
In my view family comes first, then job, then running – so choose the right time to be a family man or woman, and be sure of the attitude of your partner, children and employer.
7 a Injuries
If injured or ill, ease off or stop - you'll pick up again later, but don't start again too enthusiastically. Injuries and illnesses nearly always take longer to recover from than you think, but the training effect is not lost overnight either - so don't panic, get treatment, ice, massage, rest, whatever is best...Alternative forms of training will help you retain your fitness level – though I have to confess I was not good at doing exercises, water-based training, cycling etc.
7 b Mistakes
Training too hard and too fast; training too little or too much.
Training when you are injured or ill; trying to get back in a hurry.
Changing your training every couple of weeks and not having a long term plan; believing your own publicity.
And finally: Be nice to people on the way up - you'll meet them again coming down!
A little about me and my training.
How little I did when not peaking
The Olympics story
51 marathons, 24 sub 2:20, only one sub 2:15
Marathons: Two Commonwealths (one 8th, one 6th , one Olympics (7th), two World Vets (one 2nd , one 1st)