OUT NOW: (Features Plenty of Running Anecdotes)
Every so often a runner you know shows the sort of rapid improvement that takes your breath away.
Previously he’d had the exact same mara PB as me.
Then last weekend a guy I know took five minutes off his HM time at the Great Scottish Run. Taking it down from 17:29 (similar to mine) to 1:12:47.
These are times I could only dream of (particularly at the moment).
And during a long-term injury lay-off when you’re out of shape it is hard to resist the temptation to side with Gore Vidal in feeling: “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.”
But I take a different view.
These are inspirational runs.
And I always think: “How the hell did they do that. And what can I learn.”
So I’d spent a couple of hours at The Ritz Hotel with Bruce immediately post-Berlin doing exactly that.
But Del was different. A closed book, so to speak.
Del first came to my attention in June when I ran the Killearn 10k. I came sixth, a full three minutes behind Del, the winner.
I then found out from my mate Pacepusher a few days later that he’d done another trail race the next day and won that.
We’d kept in touch through Strava so I was really pleased when I saw his time last Sunday. So I emailed him and we did an interview.
So for all you competitive runners everywhere who know the miraculous nature of taking five minutes off your HM PB from 1:17 to 1:12, read on.
2. Age? Height? Weight (st and lb)?
32, 5’4, 8 stone 13.
3. Where do you live?
Milngavie, but from Kilmarnock.
Groundsman at Rangers Football Club.
6. How long have you been running?
I started running again in 2013 while I was training for the Great Scottish Run. I ran as a child and in my early teens for Kilmarnock Harriers but stopped running for 15 years. I started again when I turned 30 as a means of getting fit.
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?
In the lead up to the Great Scottish Run I probably ran between 50 and 70 miles depending on how hard a week I was having. I tend to cut the miles a bit if I have a race that week. A typical week would look roughly like this:
•Monday – 10-Mile Tempo.
•Tuesday – Speed session at Garscube Harriers.
•Wednesday – 14 miles Steady.
•Thursday- 14 miles, five at Tempo.
•Friday – Strength and conditioning.
•Saturday – 8 Easy.
•Sunday – Long Run.
Every second morning I also run a 4-6-mile recovery run before work.
I like to run on mixed terrain and try and run at least once a week just for enjoyment, no exact schedule. Just lace up and out the door, see where the legs take me. I normally do a hard session then an easier session the next day.
I find Tempo runs are the key to success. I add a lot of hills into my routes and will do specific hill training come winter time.
8. PBs at 5k, 5M, 10K, 10M, HM, 20M, Mara?
5k – 15:52, 5 miles – 27:48, 10k – 32:59, 10 miles – 55:58, HM – 72:47, Marathon – 3:10:13.
9. Do you train alone or in groups?
I train with Garscube Harriers on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the rest of the week I train alone or on pre-arranged runs with fellow club members, or running friends.
10. How many races do you do a year, roughly?
I have only been running a few years, but as time goes on I find I am entering more races. Including cross country!
11. How many minutes and seconds did you take off your HM PB last Sunday?
Four minutes 42 seconds off my previous half marathon time which I set in Dunoon on 1 August 2015 (five minutes off a HM PB in two months!!! – ed)
12. What do you put that down to?
I put it down to a lot of hard work and the proper training at the right time. After the Dunoon half marathon in August I knew I was getting quicker, and was on course to achieve my season’s goal of 76 minutes.
13. Was it a “soft” time. If so, why was it “soft” prevously?
I don’t think it was a soft time previously, it was probably a true reflection of where my training was at around that time.
I wasn’t really doing any long runs or big miles at that point. Dunoon was merely a stepping stone along the way towards my target race of the season, the Great Scottish Run.
14. What do you put the improvement down to? What factors?
I think the improvements in my time are down to a few reasons.
First of all, you need to be doing the correct training at the right time.
At Garscube we have a training schedule for the full year.
This generally targets certain races throughout the season.
The training schedules are written by experienced runners and former Olympic runner Lynne MacDougall.
I try and get along to as many of the sessions as possible as running with other runners helps drive me on. If I can’t make the session, I will often try and do the planned session on my own when I can.
I place a lot of trust in other people to plan what I am supposed to be doing and the rest I just make up from month to month depending on what races I have planned.
I have increased my mileage and added more strength and conditioning into my training.
This has improved my posture enormously and my core strength is noticeable during longer races.
The way I look at it is that everything must be working perfectly in harmony.
Running is the easy bit.
15. What made you “believe” you could take such a huge chunk off an already impressive time?
I never in a million years thought that I would run the time I did.
At the start of the race I would have been happy running 1:15:59.
The whole year my target was 1:16:00 but after I ran an impressive time in the Around Cumbrae race, I started to believe that I could possibly go a little faster.
In training I can comfortably run between 5:10 minute miles and upwards so I know that I am more than capable of doing it, but whether I could do it over 13.1 miles remained to be seen.
I am rubbish at judging my pace. I think you need everything to just go right on the day, and a little bit of luck.
You can run 100 races in a year and only run your perfect race once or twice. Luck was on my side on Sunday and no issues arose to hamper my PB attempt.
Suffering from stomach issues on longer runs sometimes throws me a bit, but not that day.
16. What was different about this time compared to previous attempts at the distance?
I think the difference between this time and the rest is that I really wanted it this time.
The Great Scottish Run is probably the race that means most to me as it was the race that I first did a few years ago with my friends when I started to get back into running.
I had put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well, although I gave myself a modest target.
The crowd at big city events push you on and I think it probably shaved at least a minute off my time.
A lot of races this year I have been running solo most of the race.
But on Sunday I managed to get in a group with some of the elite women including Beth Potter, albeit only the first 5k.
After I broke away from them I just tried to pick off the people in front.
It helps having something to focus on and take the mind off the fact your legs feel like lead weights.
17. Take me through your race
My race started a little slow as I had to weave a bit to get out of the crowd, even though I managed to secure a fast paced club runner spot.
Once I managed to break free I soon started to get going as we went up the first hill.
Trying to hold myself back a bit, I found myself in a pack with a couple of the elite ladies and went with that pace for a while.
As we approached the 5k mark I felt that the pace was a little slower than I would like so made a break to try and start picking off the runners that were close in front of me.
There weren’t too many people immediately in front so I slowly started to close people down.
The next seven or eight miles were lonely as I ran alone, with a chasing pack not far behind. This kept me working hard, as it’s easy to drop the pace at this point.
When we crossed the squinty bridge I was catching up on a few other runners, and team-mates who weren’t running were scattered along the last two miles.
The shouts and cheers made me pick the pace up a bit, and I had hardly even looked at my watch.
The last 400m I had absolutely nothing left in my legs and my lame attempt at a sprint finish didn’t last long.
But when I stopped my watch as I crossed the line I had to look twice when it read 1:12:47.
The best part of the race was watching my fellow club mates and other guys I know through running cross the line and realise they had just smashed their PBs.
18. What do you get out of running? What inspires you?
Running to me is pretty much everything now. I base my whole life around it. Weekends are taken up training or racing and the good thing that running has that not many other sports has is the social aspect. People of all walks of life and all abilities have the chance to share a common love for such a varied sport. Whether it takes you five minutes or 15 minutes to run a mile we all get the same enjoyment out of it. The satisfaction of smashing a PB after three or four months’ hard training makes it all worth it.
19. Is there anyone who has been instrumental in your recent success? A mentor perhaps?
I would have to say everyone at the club has played a part in my success over the past year. The support and encouragement that everyone gives you is all I need to be inspired.
My family and friends are very supportive, even if it means that I have pretty much gone from being a 24-hour party person to a non-drinking recluse who only sleeps and runs.
20. 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 can’t think off the top of my head of many funny stories during races, but a wee boy thought I was Kenny Miller the other week at the Cumbernauld 10k!
21. What’s next? Where do you go from here?
Next up is the cross country season. This is probably my strongest discipline. Probably because I am small and nimble.
Next season my target is to break 32 minutes for the 10k, 15:30 for 5k and maybe tackle the half again later in the year.
I plan on sticking to the shorter stuff next year and maybe target certain races. This year I have done everything. I did the Highland Fling in April and it took me about six or seven weeks to recover, which is not ideal in the middle of the racing season.
I always try and set the bar high, and have surpassed all of my season’s goals in 2015, so next year is a new year.
All the hard work starts again.
Huge thanks to Del for sharing how he does it. Inspirational stuff. For more on what motivates competitive runners read this post. Happy cross-countrying everyone.