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The Bruce Carmichael Files

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

In this post (the second of two, unless anyone else wants to chip in) you will find out:

  • How a regionally (west of Scotland) competitive runner (15:52 for a 5K aged 40) smashed his marathon PB 22 days ago after three consecutive disappointments.
  • How marathon training will see you PB’ing at every endurance distance.
  • Why running is very much like pizza.


Glasgow marathoner Bruce Carmichael holding trophy.
Bruce at the Girvan Half earlier this year.

But before I share my interview with Bellahouston Road Runners’ Bruce Carmichael, a brief introduction.

I don’t know about you, but every marathon I run, at some stage immediately prior, during or after…I feel a bit teary.

Whether it’s the commitment (family, friends, me) that goes into running a marathon or what. There’s always one moment where I almost lose it.

At the London in 2014, I can remember exactly when it was. Looking back at my race report I see I’ve spared his blushes but I recall it vividly.

It’s 23 miles in and short of a natural disaster I’m on for my first sub-3. I’m motoring along.

Then I see something which does not compute.

Up ahead of me is a very tall guy in a Bella Road Runners vest. And he’s walking. Walking.

I want to stop. I shout out behind me: “Are you injured?” “No,” comes the reply with a knowing grimace.

I carry on but cannot believe that someone going for a 2:40; someone I was doing 3 x 1.5M reps with (him at 5:40 pace) six days previously, has lost it.

I feel sorry for him; it upsets me (Bruce went on to post 2:58:04).

Fast Forward

Fast forward 1.5 years and Bruce, his Mum, me, and my brother-in-law are standing near Gendarmenmarkt the day before the Berlin Marathon. A chance meeting. We have a chat (Bruce is one of the good guys).

I know he’s flying at the moment but something he says sticks in my mind:

“I’m going to give it a go but I just don’t think marathons are my distance.”

We part company and I’m getting flashbacks to VLM2014. I hope for his sake that he’s wrong, and he whoops my ass (prior to this race our marathon PBs were within one second of each other).

1. Name?

Bruce Carmichael.

2. Age? Height? Weight (st and lb)?

40 years old, 6 ft 2″, 11 stone approximately (I never weigh myself).

3. Where do you live?

I live in Newton Mearns, on the south side of Glasgow.

4. Club?

My club since 2010 is Bellahouston Road Runners.

5. Job?

My job is general manager at Gilchrist Steels Ltd. We provide steel fabrication services.

6. How long have you been running?

I have been running for about 10 years.

The first five on my own, just heading out and running at the same pace, no thought given to specific race training/speed work/stretching/diet etc, a real novice!!

The last five years as a member of Bella.

Now at least I know what I should be doing to achieve relative success in my preferred distances.

I occasionally even manage to put all this knowledge into practice!!

7. In the lead up to the race where you got your PB recently, what was a typical training week? How many miles? What types of sessions? At what pace? Terrain? Height gain? And what’s your average weekly mileage normally?

  • My training regime for Berlin started with about five weeks of 50-55 miles, gradually building up my long runs and increasing my MP sessions.
  • I progressed to a six-week block averaging about 65 miles, with my biggest week being 70 miles (there was no grand plan to reach that mileage, I just happened to be off work that week).
  • I had one easy week during the six-week block, about 40 miles.
  • This was the week I did a race-sharpening half marathon, the Barry Buddon half up in Monifieth.
  • My training weeks would generally consist of at least one club session, ideally a 6-8 mile tempo run, or some mile/km reps at 10k pace.
  • Every other week I would do a MP session, building from eight miles up to 15 miles.
  • I did two of the 15-mile sessions at 5:50-6:00 pace, I think these were key factors in my success.
  • Naturally there was the Saturday long run, building gradually from 16 miles up to 24 miles, the longest run completed three weeks before the race. 
  • My long run pace would start about 7:00s then build to about 6:30, and I tried to do the last 6-8 miles at 6:00 pace.
  • I would generally do some easy miles three times a week, ranging from 5-7 miles. 

8. PBs at 5k, 10K, HM, Mara?

5k – 15:52, 10k – 32:44, HM – 73:32, Marathon – 2:35:10.

9. Do you train alone or in groups?

I try to train with Bella at least once a week, the rest of the time I head out myself.

10. How many races do you do a year, roughly?

If I remain injury-free I try and do about 10-12 races, including two marathons.

Berlin Marathon 2015

11. How many minutes and seconds did you take off your marathon PB three weeks ago?

Seven minutes and 12 seconds.

12. What do you put that down to?

I think there were various factors at play that helped me achieve my PB.

  • Firstly, the odd niggle aside I remained injury-free for the six months leading up to the race, I’ve spent a lot more time with my foam roller of late!
  • Secondly, up until April I had been studying part-time for the last seven years. I now have much more time to focus on running.
  • Thirdly, the training itself, specifically the MP sessions. I have never gone as long in these sessions in previous training blocks, and the long runs with the last 6-8 miles at marathon pace were hard but worth it.
  • Lastly, I kept my pace up with club sessions. For some reason I always remember Paula Radcliffe saying that you should be fast enough for a 10k PB while marathon training.

13. Was your previous marathon PB a “soft” time. If so, why was it “soft” previously?

For a while, I was more than happy with my previous PB. 2:42 seemed about right.

I think it was only when I regularly started to achieve sub 1.15 in half marathons that I felt I could do better.

14. What made you “believe” you could take such a huge chunk off an already impressive time?

As for belief, that is a harder question to answer.

My previous three marathons had gone badly for various reasons.

A couple of injuries and a lack of proper training didn’t stop me from rather foolishly attempting sub 2:40, with suitably miserable results.

This had left me questioning whether I could actually achieve my goal, irrespective of what my half marathon times would suggest.

I don’t think that I actually believed that sub 2:40 was on the cards until about 20-21 miles into the race itself.

And even then I was just waiting for the wheels to fall off!!

15. What was different about this time compared to previous attempts at the distance?

“The difference this time, whether I believed it or not, was that my body was better prepared than ever before. Eventually my mind agreed with my body, albeit it took until about two hours into the race for the two to synchronise.”

16. Take me through your race

The race itself was a mixed bag.

The start was chaotic to say the least, literally a stampede as we crossed the line at the start.

This was not helped by a runner ahead of me turning back to pick up a gel and getting knocked to the ground, taking another couple of runners with him, it was carnage!

The first six miles were spent trying to avoid getting my heels clipped, it was the most congested marathon I have ever run in, presumably down to it being to highest quality field I have been part of.

The plan was to go through halfway in 1.18 and although I did this as planned it didn’t feel as easy as it should.

It was rather warm, an ominous sign given my body’s refusal to run at marathon pace in anything approaching warm weather.

As it was I managed to keep my pace going in that tricky phase of miles 13-18, too early in the race to think about the end but far enough in that doubts can creep in.

During this stage of the race I tried to break up the remaining distance into manageable chunks of 5k.

This seemed to work well, especially from 30-35 and 35-40.

And I knew that my mum was handily placed at 41k, I just HAD to be running when I passed her.

As I focused on these smaller distances I became aware that nobody had passed me since about the 15-mile point.

All I was doing by maintaining my pace was passing runner after runner.

This did wonders for my self-belief over the closing miles.

The only incident at this stage was a slight nose bleed which almost helped as it took my mind off miles 22-24.

And when my legs did start to get very heavy, I was fortunate that the Brandenburg Gate was in sight.

And with a quick glance at my watch I knew that I could crawl the last 500 metres and still achieve a big PB.

Luckily for me my body allowed what felt like a sprint finish: I doubt that it looked like one!!


17. What do you get out of running? What inspires you?

“Running is very much like a pizza, even a bad one is still pretty good.”

Pizza is like running according to Glasgow runner Bruce Carmichael.

I can’t express more to my non-running friends how good running makes you feel.

No matter how badly your day has gone, if you can drag yourself out for a few miles you will return feeling much better about life.

And the copious amounts of guilt-free post-run food is heavenly…

18. Is there anyone who has been instrumental in your recent success? A mentor perhaps?

No mentor as such, but I guess I’ve picked up tips and taken inspiration from every runner I’ve ever had a conversation with.

Most recently, some sage advice given to me about slowing down during the race in order to hydrate properly, that guy certainly knew his stuff!! (ed – me, Berlin’s isotonic drinks are served in water cooler cups. Best to stop or slow down to take on the valuable fuel. Hat tip to George Taylor for passing on this tip before Berlin 2014).

19. What’s the funniest thing that happened to on race day (either pre, during or after). What sticks in your mind? What do you remember?

I do like how the German spectators pronounced my name:


That made me chuckle deep into the race.

Of course, if the race had been going badly I would have wanted the spectators to turn their backs and remain silent.

Where Next?

20. What’s next? Where do you go from here?

Next, take it easy and do some xc. Then try and visualise running sub 2:35, it doesn’t seem possible, but then again neither did 2:35:10.

My name’s Dave. I live in Glasgow and run for Giffnock North. I started running three years ago. And I’ve been blogging about it at runningbeginsat40 for the last two.

My Running Update

In other news, after a four-month lay-off (bar a marathon) I’m running again. I ran my slowest parkrun for 33 months on Saturday, followed it up with a 10-miler on Sunday at 9s (cut short by a knee injury). Last night I did six 1.2K reps with 75-second recoveries at an average pace of 6:40.

One of the things I love about running is (especially at my age) how long it takes to recover form after a lay-off (albeit this is my longest ever lay-off so even I was surprised by a 20:16 parkrun).

But hey, if it was easy, what would be the point.

And after four months of bagatelling from one expert to another in a bid to cure my left Achilles I’ve decided to take control and get a plan.

All I have to do now is get a bit of luck and implement it. Can’t wait.

Photo credit: Foter / CC BY-SA