Run A Bit, Swim A Bit

A recent Swimwatch story, called “Take it Easy”, discussed the importance of not over training. To my surprise it got a positive reaction. The father of a very good swimmer I coached in Florida gave it a thumbs-up emoji. His son, Joe Skuba, was a 50.95 LC 100m and 23.38 LC 50m swimmer. I’ve always believed that he had the potential to represent the USA at the Olympic Games. He was about 6 foot 3 inches tall, strong as an ox and thrived on a Lydiard based program. His best times had dropped to 50 and 23 in less than two years. There was much left to achieve. Unfortunately he went to university in North Carolina and I came back to New Zealand before the job could be finished. It was a loss for both of us.

Joe’s father clearly thought the discussion of training matters was a major improvement from the normal diet of swimming politics. So it seems did triathlete Alex. She swims with Eyad. Here is what she wrote about the “Take it Easy” story.

Nice Swimwatch! I like the more sport oriented ones the best. The lesson I took away from our recent conversations is also “take it easy” but as that applies to between training sessions as much as it might occasionally apply to the training. Perhaps this is even more important when training is tough. You can’t burn the candle at both ends and still have a candle.

Isn’t that a super turn of phrase? So while not forgetting or ignoring the other important things going on, I guess I had better follow her advice and spend a bit more time on the “sport oriented ones”. Who knows, I may even get another emoji from Joe Skuba’s dad. What then shall we talk about today?

What about this? There is a photograph posted by Gary Moller on the “Arthur Lydiard’s Legacy – Runner’s Group” Facebook page. The photograph shows a field of female runners competing in the 1979 3000 metres national championships. I don’t know the name of all the runners in the photograph. But the ones I do know are elite members of New Zealand women’s running – Tina Wild, Allison Roe, Barbara Moore, Heather Thompson, Lorraine Moller, Glenys Quick, Alison Wright and Mary O’Connor. The record of that group includes winning the New York and Boston Marathons, a Commonwealth Games medal, an Olympic Games bronze medal, several New Zealand records, a UK national championship and a team World Cross Country title.

The runner I know most about is Alison Wright. I’m married to her and along with Arch Jelley helped with her training. You may be interested in some of the basic statistics of her training.

Alison competed for 16 seasons (8 years) as an open competitive runner and a further 7 seasons (3.5 years) as a masters runner.

The table below shows the distance she ran in training during the 16 open seasons and the 7 masters seasons. The distances shown are in kilometres. Each season is 26 weeks and includes aerobic build up conditioning (10 weeks), anaerobic training (4 weeks), speed training (4 weeks), racing (6 weeks) and a holiday (2 weeks).

Competitive Seasons Season Distance kms Annual Distance kms
1974 1200
1975/75 400 1600
1975 1551
1975/76 2415 3966
1976 1480
1976/77 2309 3789
1977 1778
1977/78 2250 4028
1978 2840
1978/79 2237 5077
1979 2770
1979/80 2631 5401
1980 3026
1980/81 2984 5900
1981 2916
1981/82 3018 5934
Total Competitive Career 35805 35805
Masters Season Season Distance kms Annual Distance kms
1984 330
1984/85 1327 1657
1985 677
1985/86 2386 3063
1986 1892
1986/87 2544 4436
1987 2259 2259
Total Masters Career 11415 11415
Career Totals 47220 Miles 29513

Most of this competitive training was done either through the idyllic Windsor Great Park and the Windsor Athletic Track or around steep Ochil Hills in Perthshire, Scotland and Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh.

Over her eight year competitive career Alison averaged 94 kilometres (59 miles) each week. Her biggest mileage in a six month season averaged 126 kilometres (79 miles) per week.

Her biggest season aerobic build up was 1979/80 when she averaged 10 weeks of 152 kilometres (95 miles) per week. The first 5 weeks of that build-up averaged 173 kilometres (108 miles). The second 5 weeks were less because of including two transition speed work sessions per week in this period.

We didn’t keep detailed records of the track-work times run in training. However some that are in my diary are shown in the table below.

Track Session Average Time Track Session Average Time
8×200 28.9 6×800 2.21.2
6×400 61.1 3×1600 4.55.6
12×200 29.2 1×3200 10.06.5
10×400 63.6 1×2400 7.26.0

The result of that training was the following personal best times – Women’s 800 2:02.7 Cologne 1979, Women’s 1000 2:38.54 Berlin 1979 (NZ Record), Women’s 1500 4:11.68 Zurich 1979, Women’s 3000 9:00.85 Cork 1981. She won national championships and represented NZ, Scotland and Great Britain. Her national championships were won on the track outdoors, on the track indoors and in cross country. She ran in the Commonwealth Games, the World Championships and for Oceania in the World Cup.

Alison raced an average of 21 races per season (42 races per year). She averaged 4 personal best times per season.

And so I guess the old adage that “miles make champions” is true. Certainly 47,220 kilometres (29,513 miles) in an 8 year career is a good distance to be run by any standard; I would think a distance also covered by several of the women running in Gary Moller’s photograph. I suspect that’s why they were so good at their job. The internet tells me the world is 40,075 kilometres around. It seems therefore that if you want to be a good runner, set off now and run around the world.

Our next Swimwatch story will consider how running training distances compare with swimming distances.

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