VMLM 2019 - The Final Word... promise!

As I have mentioned previously, the media coverage of Hayley’s run has been surreal to say the least. The positive response has been overwhelming, something to be very grateful for. 

 As the race was unfolding I hadn’t really had much of a clue as to what was going on, as I was running around the course myself from the mass start. I am at heart a running nerd and as a fan of the sport there are loads of questions I was urging each journalist to ask as Hayley was shown her collapse again and again. And again. So, I thought I would ask them and get the interview I wanted to read, hopefully it will be of interest to some other people too, but it is largely a selfish endeavour. So I dragged Hayley away from Hello, OK and all the other magazines scrabbling for her attention, cornered her in a coffee shop and geeked out. I need you guys to take on faith that we recorded this and then I transcribed it verbatim as best I could. 

 

DR: So, put yourself in my shoes, waiting around to start the race and then being given your 5k split of 17:07 – how do you think I was feeling?

HC: Panicked. I can imagine you were aware that this wouldn’t feel like it should that early in the race. I can guess that you were hoping that the timing system had failed. I’m glad I didn’t know at the time, that’s for sure. 

 

DR: Yes, that sounds about right. I certainly took a deep breath. When I watched the footage back though, and saw you in those early stages, it looked really smooth and relaxed. If I hadn’t known the splits you were running, I would have thought it looked spot on. How did it feel physically in those early miles?

HC: Fast but controlled. I was just trying to stay in the moment and enjoy it. I just stuck in the group and sheltered at the back, just like we talked about. Honestly, I thought I was running to plan. I knew I was around the same fitness as some of the other athletes so although it crossed my mind that it was fast I just told myself that they would be thinking the same. 

 

 DR: Beforehand we had talked a lot about the different challenges presented by being in a women’s only start in such a high-profile race. We were also very committed to going in there to race the others first and foremost. How did you react to being in that group early? Did you feel comfortable in that company?

HC: I was very glad that we had done the Big Half and I had managed to get over some of that imposter syndrome I felt so strongly before that. Although it still felt like a daunting task I wasn’t intimidated and just wanted to see where my best race might put me. Unfortunately, I never got to find out because that early pace was far too fast. 

 

DR: So, if we acknowledge that the first 10km was where the problem was created, what in hindsight should you have done to fix it? I know that’s a brutally hard question…

HC: I should have definitely trusted my ability at the back end of the race more. That has always been my strength in the past and all of the long runs in training felt better the further I went. Letting them go would have been the really brave thing to do. The thing I am probably saddest about is that I didn’t get to show that because we went out so fast. Having said that, I am still very inexperienced and although this was a horrible way to learn that lesson, it has well and truly stuck with me now!

DR: So you ran the first 10k just over a minute outside your PB. You didn’t know this at the time because I had cruelly taken your watch away (we might come back to that). The physiologist in me thinks it must have been starting to bite by then, was it?

 HC: In a word, yes. Next question. 

 

DR: So you were pretty much all in by that stage and had left yourself a 20 mile run to do. Good work. I am guessing that you might have needed some of the sports psychology strategies we spent so much time on by this point, nudge nudge?

HC: I remember we talked about having a toolkit of strategies for different points in the race. I quickly decided that the bag wasn’t big enough… I did start to use them and it definitely helped to avoid focusing on feeling as I did with 20 miles to go. That distance felt impossible. By bringing things like if-then planning and imagery into play I managed to shorten up the targets. I tried to stay just in the moment I was in and run the best I could. It was truly horrible though, I genuinely shudder to even think about it. In the tunnels all I could think was “you could stop here and no one would know.”

DR: So why didn’t you stop?

HC: Because I knew that wasn’t really true. People would know, and most of all I would know. Every time I started to think about the reality of stopping I became almost brutally aware that it wasn’t an option. I would never have been able to forgive myself. It got so bad that I was almost wishing I could be injured so that I would have a valid reason to stop. But I didn’t and so it was a matter of carrying on regardless. 

 

DR: It was around 35km when I ran past you in the other direction screaming at you to chase Lily. To be honest you didn’t look that great! I imagine you would have liked to hop over the barrier and kill me at that point?

HC: If I could have I would have but murdering you would only have cost me even more time. 

 

DR: So, the point everyone focuses on is the finish, but if I had to guess I would say that the hardest moment psychologically would be when you realised you weren’t going to achieve the goal. Did you have a moment like that? 

 HC: Yeah. I don’t really want to answer that, it breaks my heart… 

 

DR: Ok, let’s move on rapidly. When we met up afterwards (after I had dragged my sorry backside to the finish), you were understandably very emotional. I think it would be interesting for people to know how you felt in the immediate aftermath. Are you happy to share it?

HC: When I first came round I just asked the paramedics over and over if I had finished so that was the most immediate response.  They were asking me how I felt but I just wouldn’t engage with anything until they answered that. When you finally got back to me, and what took you so long by the way, I was still in a bit of a mess. I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I had let myself and all you guys down. 

 

DR: I know, that was a very tough moment for both of us because all I wanted to do was make you understand that you hadn’t and nothing I could say could take it away. I felt really helpless. Thankfully it didn’t last all that long. When did you start to feel just a bit better?

HC: When I got downstairs at the hotel to see my family. I was still very emotional but it was just a relief to see them and get hugged half to death. 

DR: By Sunday night we started to suspect that something was going on around the coverage of your finish. I don’t think either of us quite expected the extent of it though. Again, your initial response to being on the front pages wasn’t that positive. Can you explain why?

HC: It brought up those feelings of failure from the day before in a very sudden way. Initially that photo just represented everything that had gone wrong during the race. I wanted to run out of the shop so no one would recognise my face. I couldn’t understand why my finish was being covered when other people had performed so much better and weren’t really being mentioned at all. 

DR: It’s been a pretty steep learning curve this week. And not much of that is to do with the race. Whilst adjusting to your new celebrity lifestyle (mocking tone here readers), have you actually thought about the race and where it went wrong?

HC: Yes, thanks for that top quality bants. Yes, I have thought about little else. In the end though I think we agree that we know the lessons and that we can avoid a repeat. 

DR: We’ve talked a lot about what to do next. You’ve gone from wanting to race this weekend to retiring half a dozen times and all points in between. How’s the motivation level right now?

HC: Off the charts. The thing that keeps coming back is that I want to find out how good an athlete I can be. I don’t want to be defined by a picture of me falling over on The Mall. I know that nothing I do in running might ever get the same level of coverage and that is hard to take but for myself I need to put this right. 

 

DR: I’m pretty happy with that mindset so I’m going to shut up now before I undo it! So is it too early to ask for a testimonial for this website?

HC: No, as long as I stay the favourite, I would recommend you to anyone.

I think reflecting on this as a coach it is clear there are a number of lessons. It is hard to substitute for experience or predict every eventuality and the start of the race clearly played out differently to how anyone expected. The key for us moving forward will be to try and reinforce Hayley’s ability to use the strategies which were effective rather than simply add a greater number. There is no doubt that her physical experience from London will be invaluable. It is very difficult to recreate these physical sensations in training, nor would you want to do so too regularly. In fact, realising what she coped with on the day can only enhance confidence that she can overcome challenging sections of the race in the future.

 

Daniel Robinson
More than A Photo...

It has been a very strange few days. For six months Hayley and I have trained twice a day to try and make the British team for the World Athletics Championships in Doha later this year. On Sunday we failed to achieve that goal. As athlete and coach, we are both disappointed and hurt. I spent a sleepless night on Sunday replaying the weekend over and over in my mind. Looking back further, on the training, was there anything else we could or should have done? Did I make a mistake in the race plan? 

And then…

On Monday morning all hell broke loose. Hayley walked into a shop to pick up her lunch on the way to work, just like any Monday morning, and was greeted with her finish line photo on the front page of the national newspapers. This is despite the fact that Charlotte Purdue had run the 3rd fastest time in history by a British woman and qualified for the World Championships, and probably the Olympics, on the same day. Callum Hawkins showed that a bad race and psychological challenges can be overcome in emphatic style. Other British athletes ran incredibly well and let’s not forget that Eliud Kipchoge ran the second fastest marathon ever with an absolute masterclass. Except the general media did seem to be forgetting. Why was Hayley the story? It would seem to be because the interest in running is not based on it being a sport but an activity. We were really disappointed with the outcome, but everyone expected us to be celebrating. Suddenly, unintentionally, Hayley had become a viral news story and “inspiration to millions” both for the way she struggled to the line and the fact that she was back to work the next day. 

 

The thing is, there is nothing surprising about either of those things. Crawling to the line is what anyone would have done. The reality is that she set off too hard in the first 10k, largely by following a pacing group going quicker than advertised. She then kept pushing to, and eventually slightly beyond her limit, for the next 20 miles. The psychological preparation she put in was undoubtedly influential on this, as is the fact that she is as hard as nails. But that’s a more nuanced message and doesn’t have the mass impact of those photographs. A picture paints a thousand words, but not necessarily the ones you would choose. 

 

Being back to work for the NHS also became a big part of the story. It doesn’t really register with either of us. Hayley doesn’t feel entitled to be a full-time athlete and I’m not sure it would be the healthiest choice for her even if it was an option. She hasn’t yet performed at the level we would expect to reach before it was available to us. And so, like most of the other 42 549 finishers she went back to her day job on Monday. A bit stiff and sore, but otherwise fine. It’s also important to say that now and in the past many athletes have performed at a much higher elite level whilst working full time. And yet at various points the media have tried to claim that she is the “only full-time elite athlete”. It has been a battle to constantly try and correct them. 

 

We have found ourselves answering some truly strange questions from “researchers”. A selection of my favourites below – 

“Did Hayley run for charity or get in through the Ballot?”

“Is this her first marathon?”

“Did you find the race hard?”

“Do you think she didn’t do enough training?”

Apparently securing a job as a researcher doesn’t require the ability to utilise google.

There have on the other hand been many wonderful aspects to the coverage. Teachers have used the footage in assemblies. So many people have been in touch being incredibly kind and generous, saying that they have felt inspired. It’s not hard to understand why people warm to Hayley so easily. She is so honest and open at the same time as being grounded and humble, so much of that is down to her amazing family. The message that perseverance and resilience are admirable qualities is a good one, regardless of the vehicle for it. A pleasing angle on the coverage was the fact that Hayley’s gender wasn’t a factor. She was treated as an athlete first in that sense and that’s too rarely the case in the media. 

The biggest concern for us has actually been the idea that we may be directing attention away from athletes whose performances deserve it. Sponsorship opportunities rely on profile and this should be meritocratic and based on performance rather than what is in essence a human-interest story. Throughout we have tried to stress the respect and admiration we have for Hayley’s competitors and that they in fact inspire us to want to learn and improve. Unfortunately, that is the section of the interview which is often edited out. 

Perhaps thankfully, the attention will be very short-lived and is already dying down 48 hours later. 

So…. What now?

We rest, recover and go again, just like any other dedicated athlete. Hayley is much more than a photograph and we will set out to show that in the coming months and years. The thing we love about running is actually running. Neither of us can wait to be back on the road or the track, half-killing each other in sessions or chatting about nonsense in recovery runs. Hayley will keep worrying me sick with gymnastics and I’ll be mercilessly, but fairly, mocked for my lack of ability in the gym. There is a great group of British female distance runners at the moment. We can all push each other forward and start to significantly close the gap to the front of the race. Charlotte has shown that. It’s about testing your own limits and helping others to test theirs.

So, thank you for all of the amazing messages and words of support. It all fuels the desire to move forward and produce a much better, and probably much less publicised, performance in the future. 

P.S. My personal, emotional response to watching what Hayley did on the Mall back was just the same as many other people. I cried my eyes out with pride and told her that she was my hero. Because she is. But now we will prove how good she can be, as well as how brave.

Daniel Robinson
The Agony of the Taper - Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my rest

Online articles and podcasts are currently awash with top tips and hacks for managing the anxiety associated with the marathon taper. The most striking thing about a taper is that we have more time. More time to rest, relax and recharge for the race. But also more time to worry, eat and allow unpleasant emotions to start to sabotage us before we even get to race day. As much as there are things we need to focus on doing in this 2-3 week period, there are an equal number of things which are helpful if avoided. 

 

The Dos

 

1.    Maintain your training frequency and intensity. A reduction of volume is what we are looking for. Keeping some intensity in your runs will enhance your confidence and help to avoid the feelings of sluggishness which people often report during the taper. For example, where you might do 6 x 1 mile, reduce this to 3 x 1 mile at the same pace. 

2.    Address logistical decisions early. By the time you are at the expo, or in the last couple of days before the race, emotions will be heightened, and you may be tempted by panic decisions or unduly affected by small external problems. Book the train and hotel, make a plan to manage your time the day before and sort out your kit and race shoes. The start of the taper is a good time to address anything outstanding on this front. It occupies some time and means you can feel well prepared for the day ahead of time. 

3.    Spend time catching up with friends and family. You will have likely neglected doing so to an extent during the peak of your training and now is a chance to address that. It is a great opportunity to talk and think about something other than running. Remember, it might be an all consuming thing for you as the race approaches, but other people will have plenty of other concerns and interests. It is healthy for you to look outside and address the needs of others with the added benefit of keeping the race in perspective. 

 

The Don’ts

 

1.    Do not start carb loading 3 weeks out by regularly eating your bodyweight in pasta. You have not fuelled your training in this way and there is nothing magical about the race which requires excessive intake. Eat sensibly and to hunger. Likewise stay hydrated but do not drown yourself. 

2.    Do not replace the running miles with excessive cross training or a mammoth DIY project. Such a strategy will likely start to overuse unfamiliar muscles and increase the risk of injury. Additionally, it can undermine the aim of the taper to leave you feeling rested. 

3.    Do not begin the creation of a series of spreadsheets designed to calculate your ideal race pace and factor in all potential weather conditions and other variables. Running is simple. You’ve trained your body and mind to know what to do when the gun goes. Trust the work you have done and let it happen. 

 

 

So often in running we complicate the simple or undo the works of months in a matter of days. As soon as we name something, in this case THE TAPER, we almost give ourselves permission to delve into unnecessary and unhelpful minutiae. Instead, let’s celebrate reaching the end of our training having avoided illness or injury, always the biggest challenge of the marathon. Learning to rest and relax is as much a necessary part of a runner’s skillset as getting up at stupid o’clock to get in the hard miles. Don’t create mystery where none exists, enjoy the change in routine but see it as just as important a part of the preparation as all of the long runs have been.  

Daniel Robinson
Morning Afterglow
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It takes a lot of strength and willpower for many of us to jump out of bed in the morning, pull our running kit on, and hit the roads or the treadmill. The dark and cold mornings at this time of year only make this more of a challenge. I used to struggle to train in the morning with tiredness, lack of fuel and motivation. But over the course of a summer, I started to enjoy the morning run for the way it set me up for the day. Getting off to a positive start made the challenges I had at the time seem more manageable.

Firstly, there are lots of reasons why an early training session is worth doing?:

  1. It feels amazing to know that your training session is out of the way before some people have got out of bed. Nothing wrong with feeling a teeny bit virtuous. There is no wondering where and if you are going to fit it in to your day, or something happening during the day meaning your training plans are derailed. 

  2. Getting up early always makes me feel more energised. Those endorphins are kicking in before you’ve got to work or started your day of chores making you more productive and energetic.

  3. Fasted runs can improve your ability to burn fat as fuel. Low intensity running in the morning is a perfect opportunity for this.

  4. That means if you only have chance fit a shorter session into the morning, your body can feel the same benefits as a longer session later in the day.

  5. There is something magical about watching the sun rise and hearing the birds sing without many other interruptions. It makes me feel calm and at peace, and helps control my anxiety and negative emotions, sometimes just for the length of the run, but often for some time afterwards and even the whole day 

  6. Obvious though it is, running before work is the best way to avoid impacting your free time.

  7. Short, easy runs in the morning are a good way to experiment with double days, something you might want to consider if you have a performance goal.

  8. Breakfast tastes so much better knowing you have already burnt off its calories!

It’s easy to see the advantages of a long run but that doesn't always translate to emerging from beneath the duvet. Here’s how I managed to convert my brain from not engaging with the prospect of an early session, to actually going to sleep looking forward to waking up so I can get running:

  1. I recognise how incredibly better I feel emotionally from exercise, and look for any opportunity to fit it into my day to manage my moods

  2. I kick start my metabolism and energy levels with caffeine. I now really relish that time first thing in the morning where I sit with a coffee, catch up on overnight emails, messages and news, and plan my training for the day. ‘Me time’ if ever there was a dictionary definition of it 

  3. I make sure I am in bed early enough the night before to get sufficient sleep to not feel tired when I wake up. All I am sacrificing is an hour of watching nonsense TV, no choice really

  4. I lay out my running kit the night before so there is no thinking involved in getting ready for the session, and no chance for my brain to wander and come up with a reason to not do it

  5. I sleep with the curtains and a window open - a trick that only works in the summer, but it makes getting up early so much easier when you are woken by natural light and bird song

  6. I have pretty much given up alcohol. That way there is no chance of a hangover getting in the way of a training session

  7. Whenever I can, I run with someone else. That means the session can be a sociable occasion if I choose, or I’ve got a training partner to push me on. Arranging to meet someone means you are unlikely to change your mind about the session if you are struggling for motivation 

  8. I didn’t have access to a gym, so I bought a treadmill. I do appreciate that not everyone has the money or the space at home for this, but it doesn’t have to cost the earth, there are plenty of good fold up, space saving options, and it does make morning running safer in the autumn and winter months, being able to avoid dark stretches, ice or leaves underfoot, and rain, snow or frost which are definitely off putting.

  9. On the mornings where I really don’t want to run - I’m only human, they do happen - I tell myself I’m only going to do a short, easy session. Often that turns into a longer or harder session once I’m warmed up - the key is tricking the mind into thinking that the session won’t require much effort and will be over soon, to convince myself to get out there

  10. The mantra you will hear me come back to time and time again - I know I will only ever feel better for doing it, never worse.


Morning running isn’t for everyone. It’s essential if you’re in a couple that you have an understanding and supportive partner who doesn’t mind being woken up at the crack of dawn. It does take a bit of discipline even if you are generally highly motivated. You’re reading a blog on running, you must be serious about improving your running, so you have all of those qualities in abundance, right? Stick with the early morning routine for long enough and it becomes normal, then, like me, you will be wondering why you didn’t adopt early morning running sooner. 



Daniel Robinson
My long slow run (to the podium) 
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Alison Taylor’s decade long journey to a big race podium.

I did my first half marathon in Dec 2008. I’d always considered myself pretty fit, coming from a sporty family and doing athletics to a high standard as a teenager. My training for my first half marathon consisted mostly of gym sessions on anything but the treadmill. I didn’t really like running, so I’ve no idea why I signed up to a half marathon! The day itself was wet, windy, cold and snowy. Targeting a sub 2 hour finish, I crawled over the line in 2.10, amazed at how hard it had been and how unfit I actually was. The best bit of the day was the Pizza Express that evening. 

Being extremely stubborn, I stuck with it, increasing the number of running sessions I was doing, and entering race after race until I eventually (after 7 races) finished a half in under two hours. I was ecstatic. I had my own strange version the ‘running bug’. I didn’t always want to go out for a run, but I always felt better when I had. I guess at the time I was running 20-25 miles a week. 

I continued entering half marathons, and some shorter distances, and with the right training plan from my best friend who is an elite runner, and enough mileage, my times eventually reduced to 1.45.

I’d always known I would run a marathon at some point, and my first one was in 2011. A small event, 13 laps of a 2 mile loop in Gloucestershire, which wouldn’t suit everyone, but my logical mind enjoyed ticking off the laps. It was a very hot day in June and half the 100 field dropped out because of the heat, but I persevered despite hitting ‘the wall’ 8 miles in! Targeting a sub 4 hour finish, I was heart broken when I crossed the line in 4.55, just 5 mins before the cut off. It felt like unfinished business and as soon as I got home I entered the Chester Marathon scheduled for 3 months later, desperate for all those long runs not to go to waste. I crossed the line in 3.54, a PB by over an hour!

Over the course of the next few years I continued to race, mostly half marathons and marathons. My half marathon PB came down to 1.37 and my marathon PB 3.30, based on 30-50 miles a week training, one or two intense sessions a week plus a longish run. Finishing Chester for the 4th time in 3.30 felt like the pinnacle for me, and I was convinced I would never run quicker than that. It felt like a line in the sand for me, and I started to reduce my mileage. At the same time, I received the tragic news that my mother in law had been diagnosed with leukaemia. Life became too busy to fit in running alongside everything else, and when she died 6 months later I had started to put on weight and my mental state was suffering. If I was thinking straight, I would have started exercising again to combat the weight gain and the depression, but instead I comfort ate and drank for 2 years. By that point I had gained 3 stone and was in an even worse mental state.

In April 2017 something clicked, and I enrolled in a week at No 1 Bootcamp in Norfolk. Being away from home for a week was great, thinking about me and exercising to exhaustion made me sleep through the night. I lost 11 lbs in the week and had gained the motivation to start eating well and exercising more. Over the next three months I continued to lose weight and feel better about myself.

In July 2017 my Mum was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. It felt like life couldn’t get any harder, but armed with a stronger mind and body I became her full time carer and moved in with her. Exercise became my stress reliever, my time to switch off from the situation, and my way of maintaining the positivity and mental strength I needed to cope with the situation. Using a treadmill so I could stay close to Mum, my mileage was back up to 50 miles a week, plus body weight circuit training most days. My weight continued to reduce, partly through the stress of the situation, but also through the volume of exercise and improved nutrition. 

In May 2018 I ran the Bosworth Half Marathon, my first race in 3 years. I had no idea what sort of form I was in, and my training had consisted of miles and miles of pretty easy running rather than any specific speed work or long runs, so I was amazed when I crossed the line in 1.32 and 9th woman. 

A month later Mum died, and to cope with the grief my exercise routine increased. Having much more time on my hands, I was able to put more effort into a proper training plan, and again with the help of my best friend my sessions became better quality and more effective. My mileage went up towards 70 miles a week. My next race was the Kenilworth Half Marathon and to my amazement, I finished as 2nd woman in 1.25. It was a field of 1000 people and 300 women, and not only was it my first top three finish, but it also meant I had run quickly enough for the London Marathon Championship start in 2019.

Just to top things off, following a 6 week block of really good training, I ran the Great Birmingham Run. I started in the elite field right at the front of the 8,000 competitors. It was a strange feeling being there, like I didn’t really deserve it. However, I proved my worth by finished as 3rd woman in 1.22. This time there was an actual podium and a bronze medal! Since then I’ve been able to get elite places at some upcoming races and genuinely feel like I have a bright future in running.

The moral of the story? With the right level of commitment, advice, persistence and despite real life distractions, it is possible to go from being a half hearted, unenthusiastic runner to loving running and making it to the podium. It takes a lot of hard work, the right training plan and a commitment to eating well and looking after your mind and body, but I genuinely believe anyone can do it.



Daniel Robinson
Eliud The Great - A Masterpiece can't be Paint by Numbers

“99 percent of all statistics only tell 49 percent of the story.” 
― Ron DeLegge II, Gents with No Cents 

I am a running geek. For example, this morning I got up 2 hours before I really needed to, so I could run with a friend who needed to start his easy run at 5:30am before work. I don’t give this sort of thing a second thought. It’s what you do. It’s just plain weird that other people would rather have a lie in or use their time for a leisurely breakfast. 

Sure enough, when we engage in this completely normal behaviour, we talk about running. In enormous detail. This particular friend provides the added bonus of being a maths teacher (a Mathlete if you will) and so numbers are very much his thing. So, when Eliud produced his magic in Berlin we talked about his splits with frankly unhealthy enthusiasm. And the morning 10k flew by, despite the fact that we were barely shuffling along. (When this happens we reassure ourselves by quoting numerous articles which categorically support the idea that this is how the Kenyans do it.)

I am an only slightly apologetic Kipchoge fanboy. But I am also a fledgling Sports Scientist and as the first couple of paragraphs have fairly clearly established, the geekiest of running geeks. So you might think that the endless stream of data which has been used in an attempt to contextualise his achievement would be like manna from heaven for me. Just some of the remarkable numbers are below, you’ll have seen them everywhere over the last couple of days – 

 Average 400m pace – 69s

Average 5k (parkrun) pace – 14:24

Second Half – 60:33

Final 2.2km – 4:29 per mile pace

Largest improvement in the WR for 51 years

Given all of these numbers, and the scientific support engaged during the Monza attempt it could be tempting to see this record in terms of a highly successful science experiment. The product of research and calculation combined with precise, robotic execution. It just doesn’t feel like that though. I have emotive, subjective arguments for this but there is also strong evidence.  

From the point at which the pace groups were announced it was obvious that no one was even going to try and race Kipchoge. That was probably a sensible decision given his evident superiority and the best his rivals such as Wilson Kipsang could have been hoping for is that he would beat himself by overreaching for time. This lack of competition does not necessarily help Kipchoge. On occasion the presence of rivals can hamstring a record attempt by producing uneven pacing and tactical considerations. However, it can also form part of the perfect storm. If everyone accepts the goal of getting the record and racing in the very final section, when pacemakers have fallen away, an even faster finish can be produced. 

The pacemakers themselves, such an iconic sight in Berlin in the black and white stripes of Shaftesbury Barnet, were not up to the job. Of three selected, all with world class CVs, only one made it to even halfway. Kipchoge had to run the final 17km alone. Given the time and money put into the phalanx of pacers for “Breaking 2” there can be little doubt that this makes his time even more remarkable.  

The lessons we can take from Kipchoge though, surely come from his attitude rather than his numbers. 

The day before Berlin I was lucky enough to tag along as Professor Andy Lane spoke to a small group of nutritionists about belief effects. Perhaps it is because these ideas are so fresh in my mind, but it is tempting to see something powerful in Kipchoge’s own belief. In interviews and across the media there is an authenticity when he talks about his conviction that “no human is limited”. Of the three athletes who attempted Breaking 2, he was the only one whose belief that the target was possible never seemed to waiver. He did not speak in terms of wanting or hoping to do it, he simply said that he would. Of course, he came up short but by a vanishingly small margin.

We are fortunate enough to see enough of how Kipchoge prepares to gain an insight into his methods. He has a coach he trusts unquestioningly. His training plan is relatively simple, as is his lifestyle during camp. We cannot point to marginal gains as the reason for his success. He does the work and appears to exhibit a tranquil, almost spiritual demeanour away from training. There is a sense that he goes to the line secure in the knowledge that he has the goal within his own control. The obvious comparison in terms of an athletics outlier is Usain Bolt. The two men could not appear more different in character. They do share something very significant however. Neither is intimidated by apparently unbreakable barriers. They retain absolute belief in their own ability and do not seem concerned by the performances of others. Of course, this is a luxury of physical superiority. But to repeatedly perform at levels apparent experts have ruled out takes more than raw ability. Complacency is a constant threat to the talented in athletics because no amount of “talent” can survive a neglected lifestyle. 

Stripping everything away can be liberating and it is hard to argue against the formula Kipchoge has settled on. An athlete with complete faith in his method, who has the discipline and motivation to always improve allied with the perspective and confidence that on race day he will do his best, and that is always good enough. 

 

“You live simple, you train hard. You live an honest life. Then you are free.” – Eliud Kipchoge

 

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Daniel Robinson
MIND matters

Let's start with a serious one – they won’t all be. 

 

Do your little bit of good where you are;

it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world

Desmond Tutu

 

Running has given me an awful lot. All I had to do was try hard and in return I learnt about perseverance, patience and friendship amongst many other things. Most of all though, it has helped me through various mental health challenges. Which is why I want to start by talking about MIND. 

I wanted to start this project to help people who are focused on performance. It is where I feel I can make the best contribution. I believe that optimising your performance is a way for some people to get more out of their sport. Running / cycling / swimming an arbitrary distance in an arbitrary time is essentially trivial. But the qualities we can develop and the confidence we can derive from the lessons learned along the way are meaningful. That’s why it is ok to think that your PB matters and that your training is important. I’m not saying that it means or is worth neglecting family or other aspects of life. But equally we don’t need to be apologetic about caring. Achievement in endurance sport does not come without hard work, regardless of any innate ability (whether or not you believe such a thing exists). Earning something through hard work is valuable. The nature of the something is somewhat secondary, it can be whatever inspires or motivates you. 

Thinking about all these things as we were getting started made me thankful that I had running when times get tough. It also made me realise how difficult it would be to make a start on running if I was struggling with my mental health. The idea that things can ever improve can seem absurd. I had always wanted, above all else, for this little business to have a positive impact on people’s real experiences. Helping to improve the performance of committed athletes can undoubtedly do that.  That needn’t exclude doing other things though and so I looked around for a way to make another small contribution. MIND appreciate the value of exercise in coping with mental health challenges as their involvement in the Heads Together campaign showed. It was that initiative that made me aware of their work and I have since seen all of the other ways in which they offer real support. Let’s face it, if Stephen Fry is your President, you’re likely to be making the world a better place. 

That’s why we are giving 5% of all of our income to MIND and as soon as we can develop the business to be self-sustaining we hope to increase this. 

Hopefully we can build a community of people who support each other in getting faster, enhancing their experience in sport and doing a bit of good at the same time. 

Daniel RobinsonComment