Monday, 16 September 2013


It’s been a few weeks since I last blogged, I went away to the USA for a couple of weeks after the Capenhurst 5k. It was a good time to go, most of my clients were taking holidays too which eased the self employed pain. Before we went we’d been watching the Athletics World Championships and it was an interview with Mo Farah which gave me the inspiration for this blog. In the interview Mo stated how much more confident he was about his running ability, and it captured the moment really well. Confidence is a big weapon in our armoury in anything we do, go into an interview lacking confidence and you’re unlikely to get the job, approach your boss for a raise but show no confidence in your argument for why you deserve it and you’ll walk away with nothing. And so it’s true in running that you’re more likely to produce a good result if you run with confidence.

But how do you get this confidence in the first place? Simple, get to know your body well, know what it’s capable of and believe in yourself. OK sounds simple but how’d you do it. Well here’s an example. I took on a client earlier this year, he’d never broken 18 minutes for 5k, so I geared his training to running reps at sub 17 minute 5k pace, not to far below as that would have put him under too much stress. Week by week his reps got gradually quicker until he started to believe he could break that 17 minute barrier. Alongside this I made some other sessions mentally tough by giving him longer reps than he was used to, so he was used to pushing himself through the tough times which you’ll inevitably get in races, the longer they are. As well as the training I talked him through race scenarios to get him to understand what emotional stresses he would go through in races and how to combat them. It didn’t take long to get that first sub 17 minute 5k and after that sub 17 became the expectation rather than the barrier. We’ve come some way but we’re not stopping there, goals are being revised for next year. The one down side of the help I’ve given him is that he keeps beating me.

I’m a confidence runner myself, the two 5ks I ran recently showed that. Wythenshawe Park was my first proper 5k for some time and I was still getting back to fitness after my injury. During the race I did lack confidence at times, I was running faster than I had all year but I didn’t believe I could beat Dave Alexander of West Cheshire so stuck behind him. The result: I didn’t beat Dave, but I did still produce my fastest 5k since my comeback, though at 17:02, slightly short of my goal of sub 17. A week later and I was back in action at the Capenhurst 5k, this time I was feeling more confident in the run up to the race, having that 17:02 in me I knew I could find that little bit extra to sneak under 17. That was until the day before the race I tweaked my back and lost most of my mobility. On the day of the race I went to my chiropractor and she loosened me up, but I was still 50:50 on doing the race. I went anyway and decided to jog about to see how I felt before deciding for sure. The jog did me some good and, although still a little stiff, I decided to go for it.

I wasn’t as confident as I’d been, I did have hopes of beating my mate Rob Tudor earlier in the week, but I hadn’t lost all my confidence. I know I’m able to turn it on in races and felt that I could still sneak under 17 minutes, even if I didn’t think I could beat Rob. It was a steady start for me, Rob shot off way ahead of me, but I still went through the first k marker in a time quicker than at Wythenshawe Park. I felt ok and a quick mental calculation told me that if I didn’t lose too much time on the next few k’s I would break 17 minutes. But once again Dave Alexander was just ahead of me. For the next two k I put out of my mind any thoughts of beating him as I concentrated on keeping my pace steady. He was obviously going well too as he retained the same gap on me. With 2k to go I had a surge in confidence, I felt good and knew I had more in me than I had been giving so I raised my tempo slightly and focused on taking Dave. Somewhere during that k I eased past Dave and of course, having done the work to get there, there was to be no easing off now if I didn’t want him to come back at me. I kept the pressure on and noticed my old sparring partner Graham MacNeil just up the road. I’ve had some great races against Graham but hadn’t beaten him since my injury, now was my chance and I switched focus to him. It was a great feeling running neck and neck with Graham and I was always confident I’d be able to raise the tempo in the run in to the line. Unfortunately the finish was just around a corner and I’d anticipated it being further away, so I left my finishing burst a little later than I could have. Still I beat Graham, Dave and reduced my years best to 16:46. Rob was still some 21 seconds ahead of me, he’s not going to be an easy nut to crack, but that just makes the game all the more exciting for him as well as for me, he knows me so well he knows he won’t be able to ease up.

A great tussle with Graham MacNeil, Dave Alexander to the right in the blue singlet

Obviously there was a difference in confidence levels between the two races, but my confidence still isn’t as high as it has been. The only way that’s going to come back is by consistent training and gradually increasing the pace I run at. Which is all I can do at the moment, while I still suffer the consequences of my earlier injury. But even when I’m not at my most confident I can still pull off decent performances. My biggest problem comes when I’m over confident, I’ve gone too hard too early in races, believing that I’m invincible. In truth I’ve managed to get away with it some times having imposed myself on the rest of the field enough to kill off any fight back, but I’ve sometimes lost to someone who didn’t give up and hit me back when I’ve hit my weak point. Still it all makes for interesting racing, winning or losing as long as the battle was good, I’m sure Mo Farah would agree with that after his loss to Kenenisa Bekele at the Great North Run.

Our visit to the USA was great, we only covered Massachusetts and Maine but even that required a fair amount of driving. I managed to get some good quality training in during the first week but in the second I pulled my hamstring, I put this down to the driving, I just couldn’t get in a comfy position. So during the second week I had to start with gentle jogging and gradually bring up the pace each day. Even last week I was unable to do any fast workouts but I was still getting faster towards the end of the week. Frantic work with the foam roller was helping.

On Sunday it was the North West Road Relays, which marks a year since I first ran for Salford. On that occasion I was also coming back from a pulled hamstring but ran a great leg and that propelled me into a decent winter. This time it wasn’t so great, it was an easy course that I should have stormed around but the niggle in my hamstring prevented me from turning the pace on. I was struggling to find my rhythm during the first lap but finally got there for a strong finish, albeit a little too late. A 15:09 clocking equates to a 17:21 5k time, which is a little backwards step, though the heavy rain and strong winds might have had something to do with that. Hopefully my continued abuse of the foam roller will help me to recover my form before too long.  

Written by Roger Alsop

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