OUT NOW: (Features Plenty of Running Anecdotes)
There are (probably) more than two million over-50-year-olds living in Scotland today. Andy White’s (definitely) the fastest.
I’ve known Andy since I started running races aged 40. For a few years, we were always there or thereabouts, duking it out on the mud-contoured hillsides of Gourock, Falkirk and Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park.
But I got injured and stuck to marathons, while Andy kicked on, and then some.
I still keep an eye on things now from the comfort of my Lenovo laptop, indulging in the pastime well-known to running obsessives who don’t race often, the old soft-shoe download-Excel-spreadsheet-and-look-at-how-your-old-sparring-partners-got-on shuffle.
So a few Sundays ago I ignored my computer’s urging not to download a shonky Excel file from an obscure athletics website, opened it and scanned the results. And there he was, Andrew White, Greenock Glenpark Harriers, V50, 11th in the Renfrewshire AAAs in a time of 26:55. Let me repeat that, 26:55 over 5M out and back along Gourock’s seafront with a wee undulation and no-doubt a bit of wind thrown in for good measure.
That’s 5:21 pace. (I know this is fast because I once did the same race in 28:09, four years back, aged 42. And I was extremely out of puff afterwards). Wow, that’s a stand-out time for a 50-year-old.
Having taken up running later in life, I have this thing about age. My long-term goal is to go sub-2:40 in a marathon and I’m tantalisingly close, running 2:40:36 in Berlin as I neared my 45th birthday. Age shall not limit you is an oft-repeated mantra of mine and you only have to look at people like the wolf man of Harrisburg to see what can be achieved as the years tick by. But I’m 46 now, and if I’m to keep my dream alive, I need inspiration, tangible belief that anything is still possible (especially as my next road mara’ll be when I’m 47, at the earliest).
Stories of wolf men are all very well, but when it comes to running, I’ve always looked up to people I know, and drawn inspiration from their achievements. George Taylor ran Berlin in 2:36:32 aged 46, and I’ve had plenty of time sitting in airports over the last five years to pick his brain.
So seeing Andy’s time made me want to know more. How does he run that fast? What training does he do? How did he make the jump from good club runner to brilliant amateur athlete a couple of years ago? And is 2019 the year Andy gets the pay off from an unflinching approach to marathons that has seen steady downward progress in his times so sub-2:40 is now well within his grasp?
Well, whatever level you’re at, and whatever distance you run, Andy’s is an inspirational story from which we can all learn. Perhaps you’re trying to go sub-2:40 in a marathon. Or do you want to break 20 minutes for a 5k? Maybe you’ve turned 50 and are wondering if it’s all downhill on the running front from hereon in.
Whatever’s holding you back as a runner, this post’ll give you an insight into what it takes to succeed (run fast, run long, run hard in Andy’s case). So grab a coffee, sit down and soak up my interview with the fastest over 50-year-old in Scotland (and the seventh fastest in the UK).
Andrew (Andy) White.
Greenock Glenpark Harriers (GGH).
5k – 16:29.
10k – 34:25.
10m – 58:38 (that’s a soft one – I’ve gone thru 10 miles in a half in 58:00…should take a good two minutes off that at Tom Scott in a few weeks).
HM – 75:53.
Mara – 2:41:48.
Ultras – not really cracked the ultras, but was 5th at Dunoon and 10th at Glen Ogle.
Consultant software developer.
When I think of you, I think of marathons, especially London and Berlin, and also your superb performance at Glen Ogle in your first ultra!
I probably started running about 15 years ago, initially just 4–5 miles at lunch a few times a week to get fit. I joined GGH in late 2011, again just to keep fit during the winter when I wasn’t playing golf. I started racing in 2012 and got hooked. My first marathon was in 2014.
No. Cricket, basketball, football, but no athletics.
I guess my main motivation is just trying to keep improving my PBs across all distances – that’s my primary aim at the start of each year. I also just enjoy running, and I like the analytical aspect of marathon training – planning what sessions to do, etc.
During the week, I usually try and run at lunch from work. Easy runs Monday/Wednesday/Friday, usually 8–9 miles at around 6:30–6:45 pace. Hard days on Tuesday/Thursday – I do a lot of tempo runs, and sometimes Fartlek-style runs (one minute on/one minute off), and sometimes more structured intervals, eg, 6x1k. I also sometimes add some strides to my easy runs.
Saturday is usually a race, or parkrun, or another session/tempo run, and Sunday is usually a long run with some of my club mates – I try to keep them at 18–20 miles all year round and build up to longer during a marathon block (my last three have been 23 miles).
I usually run around 70–80 miles/week, maybe a bit less away from marathon training.
I’ve only ever seen a physio once, but I go for a sports massage quite regularly, especially during marathon training.
It wasn’t that I was considering ditching running, but I concentrated on triathlon for a couple of years and was probably a better cyclist than runner. However, I found it hard to fit in training for swim, bike, and run, plus I wasn’t a very good swimmer.
I was concentrating on running during the winter anyway and one year felt I was running well, and felt cycling was impacting my running, so I gave up on cycling. I’ve made pretty steady progress, year on year, and I think the secret is just consistency and avoiding injury.
A couple of reasons – one was that I think my long runs were too slow, and for a couple of years, things just went wrong (eg, getting stitches) when I was in good shape. One of the hard things about marathons is that you probably only get a couple of chances each year, whereas you can run 5/10ks every week.
Yes, probably – it varies, but I think it might have been treating the long runs on a Sunday as a social run and not pushing the pace. Paul Monaghan [V45, GGH runner] has run 2:39, and he and I now usually try and pick the pace up on our long runs.
To keep fit.
Yes, I think I’ll actually be in the top 10 in the UK once they update the rankings following my time in the five-miler [Andy is now 7th in the UK].
I am the highest ranked in Scotland at the moment, but I’ve not won any national titles yet, so that is one ambition – unfortunately I’ll miss the Scottish marathon and half-marathon champs this year, as they conflict with my two target races: the London and Berlin marathons.
I’m a big fan of long tempo runs, especially for the marathon: 13–18 miles at marathon pace. I also tend to avoid hills (probably the one thing my training lacks) – hence, lots of runs along the front of Greenock/Gourock, where it’s flat.
You’ve got to run fast in training to run fast in races!
Just lucky, I guess?
Not anymore, but I used to do a lot of weights before I started running, so maybe that has given me a strong foundation.
That’s a tough one – I love the challenge of the marathon, but also like blasting out a fast 5k or parkrun. Maybe the half marathon as it’s a great test of both speed and endurance.
I mostly train alone, although that’s due to circumstances, rather than preference. I do like training in a group when I can. I don’t listen to music when I run.
I try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, but I’m not obsessive about it.
Balloch to Clydebank half marathon, 50k in Perth, Tom Scott, then London!
Being overtaken in our club 10k by the club champion, wondering how he was behind me after being so far ahead after 5k – it turned out he had popped into the local cinema to use their toilet, and still won the race!
Advanced Marathoning by Pfitzinger and Douglas.
It’s at the borders of pain and suffering that the men are separated from the boys.
PBs across all distances 5k to marathon. Sub-2:40 marathon, sub-75 half, sub-34 10k.
Yes, I previously ran on the GFA start and found it a bit chaotic, and I decided I wouldn’t go back until I could get on the champs start!
You’ve got to embrace the challenge, not dread it.
I never considered stopping! Just train harder each year, and the times keep coming down. Also, I always believed I had a good marathon performance in me.
Maybe not weird, but a lot of runners like to make their easy runs really easy, but I like to run them as fast as I can as long as I’m not impacting my hard days, and not turning them into tempo runs.
Pretty much all on-road, apart from XC races.
Got to be honest, I even surprised myself that day! I knew I was in good shape as I’d done a 4-mile tempo run during the week at 5:34/mile, and on the Saturday [the day before the race] I ran a pretty comfortable 16:55 parkrun. I didn’t look at my watch until 7k during the race – just ran hard, got in a good group and stayed there!
Not sure about key sessions, but I’m going to run the 50k at Perth in late March, which should be good training for London, and will gradually increase the distance and pace of my long runs. Also, I have a half marathon and a couple of 10-mile races in the buildup.
That’s the idea…I’m pretty confident now for London, as long as conditions are decent – don’t want a heatwave, like last year! If I get 2:39 at London, I’ll try and go a bit faster at Berlin. If I miss out at London, then I’ll give it another go at Berlin.
I PB’d at every distance, from 3k to marathon last year, and given my recent five-mile time, I’m hoping to do the same again this year. I realise that eventually age will catch up with me and I can’t keep getting faster, but I’ll keep trying!
Thanks, Andy, I’ve learnt loads from this interview. I’ll be rooting for you wholeheartedly in April and September as you take on London and Berlin, and feel certain you’ll meet your goal.
Quick update on my running, this being my first post for the best part of 14 months. Last year was a washout due mainly to injury and writing a book. I did manage to come seventh in the Tweed Valley Ultra in November 2018 on a one-long-run-a-week-injury-curtailed block, and was getting back to some semblance of normal training for the first time in 12 months by the end of January this year. Unfortunately, I then broke my toe and tweaked a longstanding knee injury so schlepping 26.2 miles with 5,000 feet of ascent this Sunday is not the best idea. Albeit running on one of the world’s best MTB trails is going to be an absolute privilege and the weather’s set fair.
Aside from this Sunday (the Glentress Trail Marathon), I have two running goals for the year: the Cateran Trail Ultra in May and the Ochil Ultra in September. Both are around 50 miles. I am enjoying the challenge of ultra-running, and the predominantly off-road training is better suited to my body. I may return/dip in to racing and road-marathoning, but for the moment, I’m relishing doing something new.
If you’re interested in interviews I’ve done in the past with other west of Scotland runners, here are three I wrote earlier.
Until next time, Dave.
Last, if you want to find out more about running, rifle through my back catalogue at Running Begins at 40, my running blog. If you’re interested in self-improvement, personal finance, financial independence, or running (the foreword’s by London Marathon-winner Charlie Spedding), check out my bestselling (on both sides of the pond) new book.