Back in the olden days there was a lot of talk about a runner from Staffordshire club, Cannock and
Stafford, who had a pretty good range of times from the marathon to the mile. His name was Paul Davies-Hale and he went on to represent Britain at two Olympics, Los Angeles and . Well let me re-introduce you to someone from Barcelona who now holds world records from a range of distances from the marathon to the 400m. His name is Lee Riley, only time will tell what his greatest achievement will be. Cheshire
For those who haven’t read any of my previous blogs, mentioning Lee, let me recap. I first met Lee almost two years to the day, it was at the Mow Cop Killer Mile in 2010. I’m not actually sure why Lee was there because he wasn’t a runner, perhaps it was the challenge that came along with the name. Lee had heard of me through one of my clients and he introduced himself to me. We chatted, I beat him up Mow Cop, we chatted some more and after that Lee occasionally turned up at some of my Run With Rog and Fun With Rog sessions. It was at one of these sessions that Lee first told me of his plans to run the marathon carrying a 40lb pack, not just to run it but to break the current world record doing so.
Naturally I thought Lee was overly enthusiastically mad and I went home to think nothing more about it. Until Lee called me just over 6 months before the 2011 London Marathon. He told me he’d got a place in the marathon and wanted me to train him for it. I asked him what running he had been up to and he replied, very little. So from a starting point of no base running fitness to breaking a world record for the marathon carrying a 40lb pack, shouldn’t be too difficult.
To cut a long story short, at the London Marathon Lee smashed the World record, having already taken the Half Marathon record during the build up. He was chuffed, I was chuffed, and we went about our business.
Then a few months later Lee rang me up again and said he wanted to break the Mile world record with a 40lb pack and would I help him again. This time I only had about 5 weeks, but I was confident we could do it. After all I knew Lee well now, I knew how he operated and my methods of training seemed to work well with his ideas on training. The other thing in Lee’s favour is that he is prepared to push himself as hard as it takes to reach his goals. Now I’ve trained a few people in my time, some have gone on to achieve some pretty impressive results, there has to be an element of hard training involved, but nobody I know trains as hard as Lee. I’ve pushed him hard, we’ve touched his limits, but he comes back for more and he’s very complementary about my training, usually.
Now there has been some discussion, amongst serious runners, about how valid it is to run slow times carrying a 40lb pack and call it a world record. Well believe me Lee would like to run faster times, but carrying the pack is a challenge in it’s own right. For the sake of argument let’s look at Lee’s marathon, he went into that having only trained seriously for 6 months, hardly any previous proper running and this was his debut marathon. On the same day another runner was also going for the record with a 40lb pack, this chap had been running for years and had previous marathons of well below 3 hours, good club running standard. Lee beat him by about 30 minutes. I’m not going to say anymore on this, apart from we should look at the challenge and be proud of what Lee is achieving, just because we choose not to do it doesn’t make it any less of a performance. Should anyone like to understand what it is like to carry 40lb on your back whilst running, I’m sure Lee would oblige, I’ve walked 200m with it and believe me it’s not easy.
So back to the story, 6 weeks ago I received another phone call from Lee, telling me he had his sights set on the 400m world record, with the pack, this would take place in 5 weeks time. Could I help? I thought about it, I’m an endurance athlete and coach so what do I know about sprinting? Well I had run a 55 second 400m relay leg in my day and all I had to do was implement my principles of training to this event, alongside a little bit of research and pondering. Admittedly Lee had been down at Stoke AC, training with the sprinters for a few weeks, he’s naturally fast and wanted to see what sprinting was all about.
Unfortunately, at the time of the call I was suffering from my knee and then back injury so I could only help Lee by working out schedules. But once I was healed enough I joined Lee down at the track. Boy was that a shock to the system, I hadn’t touched the track since we trained for the mile world record and I’d probably get outsprinted by the 100year old age record holder. We did some sprint type stuff, for which I tried my best to keep up with Lee and we worked on his start. Lee was given a bespoke backpack by Lowe Alpine and we did some extra stuff to get him used to it. Time was ticking away and I wasn’t sure that we were yet there, even though I’d been refining the training on a daily basis. We did a trial run, it was windy, but Lee ran 400m, with the pack, in 60.5.
I knew we needed to get Lee’s legs into some serious lactic inducing training so I came up with a session around
, it was so hard even I started to feel fit again. But Lee was carrying his pack, it was far harder for him, then we moved onto the grass, this was far harder, by now we’d dispensed with the pack, it was tough enough. I even got told off for by two ladies for mistreating my son, but they were soon converted into the Lee Riley fan club. Queens Park
Back on the track we did another trial run, this time we tried to get everything like it would be on the day, we weighed the pack, it was a little over 41lb, we even rented a small crowd. The most notable thing was that there was no wind. It was a solo run and Lee looked good at 200m, clocked at 28 seconds, into the final 100m Lee was clearly feeling it and it was touch and go if he would make it. The clock stopped at 59.48, Lee’s goal of sub 60 had been achieved, but it wasn’t official.
Now we were all set for the official run, during the Stoke AC Open Meeting on 21 April, almost a year since Lee had set the
Marathon world record. We tapered accordingly and waited.
I’ve not yet been to see any of Lee’s previous world record attempts, I always seem to be somewhere else, but this time I promised I’d be there to offer support. So Carole and I went to Stoke. It was a pretty grey day, it wasn’t raining, but the wind was blustery, in fact it seemed stronger than the day we’d clocked 60.5. As the race got ready there was a hold up as athletes were making their way to the track, not good at any time but when you’re preparing with 40lb extra weight on your back, quite tough. Now I sound like I’m making excuses, I’m not I’m just preparing the way. Lee ran a good solid race but only managed a time of 60.95. Are we disappointed, yes, both of us feel like Lee has a sub 60 in him and the three clocked times we have show that he is there or there abouts, so it will happen. But whilst Lee’s goal was to break 60 seconds, the fact is, he has set another world record, so that’s 4 now.
While I’ve been training with Lee, and it’s been full on for two weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of short distance flat out reps, well they felt flat out to me even if I still looked like I was jogging. I never could sprint so I’m damned if I’m going to start now. Even so at granddad pace my legs were taking a hammering, though a completely different type of hammering to what they normally get. Because of the lack of longer distance training my intended return to racing was going to be a 1500m in the same open meeting as Lee ran in, unfortunately I missed the closing date. Oh well, all this did was persuade me to run the parkrun at Pennington Flash instead. So that’s where I was last Saturday morning, with Ray and Sharon Tran.
It’s been a while since I raced, due to my trip down under and the various injuries I’ve suffered since I got back, in fact the last time I raced was 5th Feb. So I was a bit tentative about this race, especially as I’ve built a bit of a reputation for being first or second in this event. I grew even more tentative as I waited for Ray and Sharon to pick me up and it suddenly started to downpour. It’s been so long since I ran this event that I had too much breakfast and my guts were churning a bit as well. As we drove towards Pennington Flash, the skies brightened up and we even got an appearance from the sun. Still knowing how muddy it gets at Pennington Flash I was resigned to having a slow race, perhaps my first one over 18 minutes. I got out of the car and immediately felt a pain pang across my right knee. A little unnerving considering it’s been my left knee that’s been troubling me for the last three years. I could hardly walk let alone run, still I decided to try to jog it out. Thankfully it went by the time I’d made it the half mile to the start. It was great to see so many familiar faces and have chats with the friendly participants and marshalls, also great to see so many new faces, when I started going, a year earlier, we averaged about 40 runners, now it seems to be attracting close to 100. I’m sure this is down to the fabulous views around the course, it’s challenging nature, Bill’s organisation and the friendliness of the people who take part.
Feeling a bit nervous about my own form I decided to take an easy start, in fact I think I was 3rd after 10 metres. But I felt it was a little too slow so I put my foot down a little. I’ve pushed much harder but for some reason I was really out of breath by the top of the first hill, I had a lead so I wasn’t going to slow down. Failing to regain my breath by the top of the 2nd hill I decided to take a peek to see where my opposition was, Stephen Makin, a 5 times winner of the event, was the closest too me, not far behind but far enough with the hill to take into consideration. It was then I made the decision to do something I‘ve never consciously done at Pennington Flash before, slow down. I felt I could sustain the gap if I just eased back. Still out of breath at the top of the 2nd hill on the 2nd lap I’d pulled out a little more of a gap. I decided I needed to push a little harder on the 3rd lap so I could coast in. At the top of the hill on the 3rd lap I couldn’t see Stephen so I knew I had another victory, but as I was fairly close to the finish I decided to keep pushing. I took a quick peek at my watch and it told me that if I pushed I should just break 18 minutes, well I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth and I gave it everything down that finishing straight, hoping my legs had learnt something from trying to catch Lee. I finished in 17:36, to my own amazement, it was actually 12 seconds quicker than the last time I ran there.
I went for my customary jog back around the course to cheer on the other runners, and thank the marshals, but I didn’t have much voice I was coughing my guts up. I felt like I did the first time I attempted an 800m, if you’ve ever done one flat out you’ll know what I mean by that. The next day I felt a little rough, Ray was worse he was suffering flu type symptoms, unfortunately that’s meant he has had to pull out of the
It’s not just been sprint work with Lee, I’ve also been training with Katy, putting the finishing touches to her Marathon training, she is doing the
marathon this weekend. Katy has been going well, she knocked about 2.5 minutes off her Manchester Newcastle 7 mile time, two weeks ago, and last week she was 3rd F35 at the Bolton 10k, running 45:16 over the tough 10k course. Hopefully Katy will have a strong marathon.
Talking of marathons, last weekend it was the
marathon, I was so busy I couldn’t watch it all but I’ve seen some great results from many of my friends who took part and even an open mic from Richard Meade, who’s enthusiasm for all things running got him into trouble with Lovely Rita Meter Maid. London
But to finish off this tale we go back to the beginning, where I first met Lee at the Mow Cop Killer Mile. I didn’t run the event last year as I was travelling up to
on the night it took place. This year it was on last night, so I could take part. I was still a bit chesty so I wasn’t sure about going, but I decided I could always start and if I was feeling bad I’d just stop. Just as two years ago it was tipping down with rain, it was cold, wet and the registration and toilets were in a muddy field, just as well I didn’t bring my latest pair of racing flats. Edinburgh
I lined up for the race, I knew quite a few people on the line and it was good humoured banter, and there amongst us was Lee and his 40lb pack. Of we went, last time I went off hard and paid for it on the steep top section, finishing 4th in 7:54. This time I was more tentative, conscious of my chest but also a little scared of that hill, I have embraced it but we’re not yet friends. I was having trouble keeping pace with the leaders but as we got higher they stopped getting away and I seemed to find the steepest section the easiest bit, I can’t fathom that out so don’t bother trying. The good news was that my chest wasn’t giving me any trouble at all so I really pushed the last flatter climb and even managed to overtake one of the youngsters ahead of me.
I crossed the line in 8 minutes, by my watch, will have to wait for the official time. 6 seconds down on 2 years ago, quite pleasing really considering I was in 32 minute 10k shape at that point. Once again it lived up to it’s name, but I guarantee the majority of people who took part will be back next time. Oh and just for fun I went back down and ran it again filming Lee, this time without his pack. Lee didn’t have a watch on the first time so I can’t tell you his pack time but having run a mile downhill and then straight back up his second time was 9:30ish.
Written by Roger Alsop