Ebbs and Flows

I feel as though that is a good way to sum up my winter season.

There have been a lot of positives, a few negatives and the opportunity to better myself along the way.

It has been said in running that:

The first half of any race you can’t win it, but you can certainly lose it.

This will be very much the case for me when I toe the line next Saturday in the Agency 10,000 invitational here in Wellington at Newtown Park.

Sometimes you have to sweat the small stuff in order to succeed, but in saying that, it can all go up in smoke with even one mistake or error and have significant consequences.

The preparation going into this race hasn’t gone exactly according to plan.

Going back a couple of months now, but what feels like yesterday, coming off the National Road Championships fizzing with my run in what was a very competitive race. My time of 31:11 considering the course and less than ideal conditions was very pleasing, backing up well from Wellington road champs 2 weeks prior.

national roads 18
Working hard to stay in the Pack, Nick and Caden would go on to be 4th and 5th, myself in 6th and Dan in 7th. Photo: Tauranga Ramblers.

Then coming off the World Mountain running Championships in Andorra (which I’ll endeavor to cover off in another post) with a glute strain and a general feeling of having come up short, I arrived home not knowing that I’d hit the lull of post race de-training.

Having had to take 12 days off training in September combined with the flu pre-race, which was quite likely to have still been lingering on race day meant that there was no rhythm to re-starting training. Literally taking one day at a time not knowing whether my glute would hold up on me was concerning going into National road Relays.

It was no surprise then that I came up short by my standards and ran a disappointing leg by my standards, the Gebbies Pass hill certainly making me look like a mere mortal.

Hoops with all his wise words just told me to take the next while training easy as I was felt and I feel it too. He also suggested that if I had any grand plans of adventures that I’d always wanted to do and never been able to that this would be the time to do them! Trying to conjure up any fun ideas resulted in vast sums of money needed, something which I’m unable to acquire so that was put to one side.

Not supposed to be working out but enjoying the un-structured nature of my current training has me running rogue with no watch and entirely to feel, which can be a blessing and a curse. Thankfully for me they have timing and lap counters for the 10,000

This meant that I had to forgo running in the Auckland Half Marathon, where I wanted to try go sub 70 minutes. Knowing it was for the better took some pressure off me and meant that I could focus fully on getting myself in best shape for the 10,000. Though watching 6 guys run under 70 minutes was a bitter feeling, knowing that I could have been part of that also. This being running – there will be certainly be another chance.

welly half finish line
Dreaming of running another race like this, where everything goes exactly to plan! Photo: Rowan Greig

Definitely getting excited by the prospect of a tasty throw-down over 25 laps and everyone trying their best not to blow up and die a miserable death is worth coming to watch or being in front of a live-stream for.

So many questions to ponder, will the weather play ball? Can Stephen get to 100 entries? Is anyone able to get under the WXC qualifying times? How many people will never run 25 laps on the track again after they realize how cruel a race it can be?

AND 

How many more people are willing to come watch since there is beer involved?

All these scores and more to be settled next Saturday!

To find out more about The Agency Group 10,000:

Big thanks to Stephen and co. for making it all happen

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Awesome Aussie Adventures

Now having been back in Wellington for a few days I can start to reflect on what has been a great experience for me. Having the opportunity to learn more about myself, visit some cool places and have lots of fun while doing it is something I am grateful for.

 

Opera house
Sydney Opera house really looks more gand in real life!!

 

Meeting so many new people and at times putting yourself in new surroundings out of your comfort zone I think is really important for personal development and growth.

Running has provided me with an opportunity to do this and I hope this continues to be the case. One day I may be able to think of myself as a wily old traveller having discovered the world through running and it is that connection with the land and the outdoors that I truly love and the opportunity to explore is something that I crave everyday.

 

darling harbour at night
Darling Harbour at night

 

Ultra Trail Australia provided all this and more for me and I really hope that I will be able to attend the event again and capture the magic of the blue mountains sometime in the near future.

On the racing front, to be delighted with my result is a modest understatement.  I put my heart and soul into the process of getting myself in the best physical and mental shape possible and it all came together, as one could only envisage before race day, when the gun fired.

 

start line.JPG
Calm before the storm. Getting in that zone

 

I had faith in the process of what works right for me and what I respond best to and it worked well for me so I will continue to do this in the future.

There was a stacked field and I had nothing to lose so I went off from the gun and made sure that I tracked anyones moves at the front while not exerting any more effort than necessary.

I was sitting in 4th place for the majority of the 8km downhill section where I quickly settled into my rhythm and tried to let gravity do the work for me.

Soon after hitting the Jamieson Creek Crossing, Vlad and Blake took off and I knew that I would be working to catch them. I focused on my own pace and continued to keep my cadence going up the hills fast.

Before the aid station at 12.8km I caught a few glimpses of Blake in 2nd place and it was just the motivation I needed to crank the pace up a gear to try catch him. By the 15km point I had drawn level with him and decided that I needed to try get a big buffer before the brutal Furber steps.

After this we hit some single track was where I felt most comfortable with the terrain and I started to quicken further with less gradient to tackle than the wide and often steep 4WD tracks beforehand. Fortunately there were km markers counting down 5km from the finish so by now I was just running for them and trying not to think about those darned steps.

Vlad had 2 min 30 on me at the bottom of the steps according to the guy with the go pro (sorry I don’t know your name!) and I had 2 min on Blake so I was really digging deep wanting to hold on for dear life.

 

Nothing could have prepared me for those steps. I had to give everything I had and I was reduced to walking up some of the steps and soon lost count of how many steps I had come up as I was gasping for air to get some O’s to the legs which felt like bricks by this point.

When finally someone said that I was at the last set of steps I was refilled with some optimism as if I had any breath left I would have been cursing the stairs!!

It was definitely a moment I will never forget seeing all the people lining the finishing strait. The euphoria that rushed through my veins got me to that finish line in 1:46:04, a time which I was very happy with, 3 min behind Vlad and 1 min in front of Blake.

Receiving the finishers medal and getting put in front of the mic is a very cool feeling and one that I truly savoured. The result didn’t sink in for quite a while but the content of knowing that I achieved both my goals, (podium finish and run 1:45-1:50) is something that I take pride in.

On reflection it left me with very happy memories of the Ultra-Trail Australia, Katoomba and the Blue Mountains.

 

blue mountains lookout
The blue tinge of the clouds gives reason to the ‘Blue Mountains’

 

I was quite surprised about the amount of people who congratulated me afterward and the praise that I have received motivates me to want to better myself everyday. It makes me appreciate the sport that I love and all the people who make this possible. The volunteers, officials, sponsors, marshalls, race committee and anyone else who helps make it all happen should be applauded, without your dedication and sacrifice you would not be able to change people’s lives, much like I feel UTA has for me.

On the trail front, I will not be racing again for another 5 months. This is going allow me to have a comprehensive build up to my next main race. Trail Running Nationals in Waihi. After not being able to run in 2016 due to injury, I have some unfinished business and I would dearly love to upgrade that 2nd to a 1st!

For now, stay healthy, eat well and happy running.

Niam

Roaring into UTA action 

On Friday I will be running in Katoomba, (approximately 2hrs train west of Sydney) in the blue mountains at the Ultra Trail Australia. 😁

For those who haven’t heard of the race before or it’s predercessor the North Face 100 it is according to its website the 4th biggest Trail Running event in the world. 

I look forward to being a part of the action and experiencing a new taste of running. With some quite different terrain and scenery to what we get here in New Zealand or being in Wellington to be frank!! 


Even the UTA pace 22, (let’s call it a half for rationale) but 21.6km to be exact, 🤔 is not your average race. With over 1200m of vert and the race starting and finishing at closer to 900m, the air is gunna be thin and the going tough. 

I do trust the training that I have done and the preperation that I have put into this event. 5 months of planning and some very hard yakka at times has me in what I feel the best shape I have ever been in and a quiet confidence in my ability regardless of the terrain, distance or competition. 🏃


It just happens that this event is an off road half with some technical bits thrown in for fun. The combination of which I am developing a liking to and definitely want to do some more racing of this nature in future where it fits in with the future 

The race finishes at the top of the Furber Steps
If you like to find out more about the race or UTA, go to the link: Ultra Trail Australia

I have to make a massive thanks to everyone who continues to support me on this journey of running, life and many memorable adventures.

Firstly all the rampant lions training crew for making it all very enjoyable and great company! To Hoops (as many better know him) for his support and guidance really has helped me to put all my energy and focus into what I do best. Lastly to my family and close friends who inspire and make great sacrifices to allow me to follow my passion. 

Also all the supporters and the sponsors that are behind the scenes who understand what it takes to be successful and are roping me reach my potential everyday. 

If you want to follow my race progress then you should download the Ultra Trail Australia app and search me under the UTA 22 and athletes and you can follow my splits. 

Best of luck to all you crazy enough to do the vossler this weekend. Great memories from the race last year. Wish I could be there to run too but I’m about to turn these blue mountains yellow racing over those hills… 😆 

Maybe someone from this pack could take out Vossler!?

Good Form Running 

NZ Mountain running Championships preview

It’s been a busy week for a few including myself with the conclusion of the Athletics New Zealand Track & Field Championships in last Sunday and the Queenstown Mountain Run which doubles as the NZ Mountain Running Championship this Saturday.

Hamiltons Porritt stadium provided an entertaining 3 days of action with some awesome performances, some of which I was fortunate enough to be able to witness.

Link to: ANZ T&F champs results/review/photos
On Friday I featured in the 5000m and managed 16th place in a credible 15:54, 3 seconds off my PB set on the same track. This year assembled a very competitive field and made for great racing. I feel as though I am starting to regain some speed after what was a challenging 2016. Much of the credit must go to Rowan as I wouldnt have got this far without his guidance and support. He has helped me get in great race shape both mentally & physiclly. Being down at Newtown park in the howling wind and pouring rain is the measure of his commitment to enable me to give 110% every time I tow the start line.

I then quickly turned my focus to Queenstown focusing on recovery and being as sharp as possible. The field this year is looking very competitive and it would be a great pleasure to better my 3rd position of last year. Many weeks and months of preperation have gone into this race. The challenging and technical nature of mountain running suits my abilities so I am excited to see what I am capable of. 

Although I take pride in my performance, it is really the process which gets me up in the morning making the most of everyday and fulfilling my potential. 

Good luck to everyone crazy enough like me to run in the gruelling race at Ben Lomond! 

For more info go to this link: Queenstown Mountain run

“Nihyl Boni Sine Labore”

PNBHS school motto 

Nothing achieved without hard work

Bit nippy down these ways 😨

Testing the limits of Human Endurance

I found this article so fascinating that I thought I would share it with you all if you havent come across this already.

Happy running until next time. We are all free to dream so we are only limited by our imagination, in other words ill be dreaming of breaking the world record!!

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Runner's World

What Will It Take to Run

A 2-HOUR Marathon?

By Alex Hutchinson

When Ronaldo da Costa broke the finish-line tape at the 1998 Berlin Marathon, he began dancing a samba. He deserved to party: The marathon world record had been stuck at 2:06:50 since 1988, after creeping down an average of just five seconds a year since the late ’60s. The wafer-thin Brazilian had shattered the mark by 45 seconds. And that was just the beginning: Including da Costa’s run, the record has been broken nine times, by a total of three minutes, 53 seconds, leaving us just two minutes, 57 seconds away from the two-hour marathon. The current world record of 2:02:57, set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto last year in Berlin, works out to 4:41.5 per mile; a sub-two would require less than 4:35 per mile. Will a human ever run that fast? To answer that question, we assembled a database of more than 10,000 top marathon performances going back half a century, using rankings compiled by the Association of Road Racing Statisticians. We crunched the numbers and plotted the trends to identify the factors that helped race times improve so dramatically since da Costa’s 1998 performance. Why? Because it’s those nine factors that will determine the likelihood of a sub-two-hour race—and they’ll all have to align to create the perfect race for the perfect runner.

Since 1998, the marathon world record has been dropping almost four times faster than in the preceding decades, raising the prospect of a sub-two-hour marathon before 2030.
Marathon World Record
SOURCE: INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ATHLETICS FEDERATIONS
In 2014, Kenyan Dennis Kimetto set the current world record of 2:02:57 in Berlin.

THE PERFECT RACE

Is it something in the sauerkraut? The last six men’s marathon world records have been set in Berlin, and the fastest non-Berlin time came in Frankfurt in 2011. In fact, just six courses around the world—Berlin, Dubai, Rotterdam, Frankfurt, Chicago, and London—account for all 44 times someone has run faster than 2:05:00 (as of September 28, 2015). These races share certain characteristics, and getting to sub-2:00 will require optimizing them all in one venue.

1>IT WILL BE A COLD DAY IN MARCH (OR NOVEMBER).

Elites used to run fast any time of year. But according to our analysis of yearly top-200 performances going back to 1950, runners began targeting spring and fall races in the 1970s for their cooler weather. Since 2000, more than half of yearly top-200 times have been run in April or October (the exception is Dubai, where the coolest month for a marathon is January). But since elite marathoners generate far more heat than regular runners, they might benefit from even colder conditions—a recent review by the French National Institute of Sport of nearly 2 million marathon finishers found that the optimal temperature for male pros was below 40°F. That raises an intriguing possibility: Focusing major marathons in April and October has whittled times to just under 2:03—perhaps to reach 2:00, those races should be held in March or November.

Optimal Temperature for Marathoners

When French researchers analyzed the finishing times of 1.8 million marathoners over a 10-year period, they found that a race-day temp of 43.2°F produced the quickest times overall. But faster runners, who generate more heat, benefited from cooler temps, with the top one percent (green line below) peaking at 38.9°F. Midpackers (red line) do best in the mid-40s.

38.9°
42.8°
43.2°
45.4°

Average of all finishers

Top 1%

Top 25%

50%-75%

SOURCE: FRENCH NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SPORT, EXPERTISE, AND PERFORMANCE
The body is a furnace, converting food energy into motion and heat. The higher your VO2 max (a measure of aerobic fitness), the hotter it burns. At max effort, elites generate more than twice as much heat as the average runner; that’s why pros run better in colder temps than midpackers.

2>THE COURSE WILL BE MIND-NUMBINGLY BORING (AND PERHAPS IN POLAND).

Runners used to set world records at the New York City Marathon. Since 1998, however, NYC winners have landed in the fastest 20 performances of the year only three times. Blame the hills—runners must ascend more than 800 feet in total—and the 26 sharp turns that stall precious momentum. Today, world records require pancake-flat courses like Chicago, with a difference of less than 30 feet between its lowest and highest points, or Dubai, with its ultrastraight, four-turn course. In fact, the Association of Road Race Statisticians has calculated a “time bias” ranking, showing how much of a boost (or drag) elite marathoners get at marathons around the world. On average, elite runners in the flat, relatively straight Berlin Marathon finish 81 seconds faster than they do at other races, while runners in New York City finish 83 seconds slower (in Chicago and Dubai, they finish 14 and 68 seconds faster, respectively). One unheralded race is in the tiny Polish town of Debno, where, since 2000, elite runners have finished 79.2 seconds faster on average than they do on other courses. Who knows what might happen if top racers showed up for a sub-two attempt in Debno, whose course follows straight country roads, and which comes in early April, when the average temp is just 42°F?

Comparing Courses

Elevation profiles highlight the differences between historic courses like Boston and New York City and the flat courses where today’s top times are run. (Boston is a point-to-point downhill course, so it’s ineligible for records as it can yield ultrafast times, like in 2011 when there was a tailwind.)

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  • MILES COVERED BY COURSE RECORD HOLDER IN TWO HOURS:

    25.55

     97.5% COMPLETED
  • 25.57

     97.6% COMPLETED
  • 25.40

      96.9% COMPLETED
  • 25.26

      96.4% COMPLETED
  • 25.13

     95.9% COMPLETED
  • 24.19   
  • 92.3% COMPLETED
SOURCES: MAPMYRUN; GOOGLE EARTH; FRENCH NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SPORT, EXPERTISE, AND PERFORMANCE

3>THE PACEMAKERS WILL FORM A HUMAN WALL, SETTING THE STAGE FOR A TIME TRIAL.

Records are now run in rabbited time trials, not in strategic head-to-head races. The reason: Even on a still day, elites are moving so fast that air resistance slows them down. Wind tunnel studies have shown that tucking behind a runner at two-hour pace allows an elite to run roughly 100 seconds faster over 26 miles, which is why races like Berlin use up to six pacemakers to shepherd leaders around the course. Pacemakers also ensure an even pace by reducing the energy wasted by tactical strategies like surges. But very few pacemakers make it past the 20-mile mark, leaving the leaders alone when the going gets really tough. To attack the two-hour mark, top runners will need to work together, drafting off each other, almost to the finish.

4>THE PAYDAY WILL BE MIND-BLOWING, BUT NOT TETHERED TO A SPECIFIC RACE.

One reason marathoners are running faster is that road racing is more lucrative. When the Sheikh of Dubai put up $1 million in prize money plus a $1 million world-record bonus in 2008, the Dubai Marathon instantly became one of the world’s fastest, despite its desert temps (average high in January, when the race is held, is 75°F). In fact, prize money for road races more than doubled since 1998, while track racing purses have gotten smaller (see below). As a result, runners are increasingly heading straight to the marathon. But big money can also draw the fastest runners away from the fastest courses, and the standard winner-takes-most prize structure favors cat-and-mouse tactics as runners race each other instead of the clock. When the Amsterdam Marathon switched to time-based prizing in 1999, four different runners immediately smashed the course record by 90 seconds. The sub-two-hour solution? A big pot of money that runners can win no matter where they race, and that is shared equally among all who break 2:00 in that event.

SOURCE: ASSOCIATION OF ROAD RACING STATISTICIANS

THE PERFECT RUNNER

Kenyans and Ethiopians have dominated the marathon since 1999; in fact, of the 100 fastest marathoners in history, 57 are from Kenya and 33 are from neighboring Ethiopia. Is it genes or environment—nature or nurture—that is responsible for this overwhelming domination? The answer doesn’t actually matter when it comes to who will run the first sub-two marathon. The success of East African runners reveals key traits that the eventual record-setter will possess, wherever he happens to be born.

1> HE’LL HAVE PAULA RADCLIFFE’S EFFICIENCY (AND VERTICAL LEAP).

The most astounding marathon outlier of all time is Paula Radcliffe. Her 2003 world record of 2:15:25 is nearly three minutes faster than any other woman in history. Lucky for us, physiologist Andrew Jones began studying her when she was a teenager—his data yields clues into her VO2 max and running economy, and the prospect for a sub-two marathon.

VO2 max is a measure of how much oxygen you’re able to deliver to your muscles during exercise. Oxygen helps convert chemical energy from food into motion, so the higher your VO2 max, the longer and faster you can run. While training can raise your VO2 max, elite marathoners already have such high values that it’s difficult to push them any higher. Doping with EPO or blood transfusions is one way of boosting an already-high VO2 max—and it’s possible that cheating may have contributed to the drop in the marathon record, and could even be the “secret” that allows runners to approach sub-two in the future. But Radcliffe’s numbers offer a reminder that such tactics aren’t necessary to achieve boundary-breaking performances: Her VO2 max was already exceptional when she was a teenager, and it stayed at a relatively constant level throughout her career.

So how did she progress from good to great? If VO2 max measures your oxygen supply, the other side of the equation is oxygen demand. A measure called “running economy,” like the fuel economy of a car, reveals how much oxygen your muscles require to maintain race pace. Reducing oxygen demand (by improving your running economy) is just as good as increasing oxygen supply. And that’s exactly what Radcliffe did—she followed a sophisticated weight-training program that boosted her vertical jump from 11 inches in 1996 to 15 inches in 2003, altering neuromuscular recruitment patterns that may have given her a more powerful push-off. She also decreased her sit-and-reach flexibility by 1.6 inches (yes, you read that right). Muscles and tendons act as springs that store energy; stiff springs may store and return more energy with each stride. So elites like Radcliffe tend to be less flexible in places like the hamstrings and lower back; indeed, in one study of elite runners, those who were eight inches less flexible on a sit-and-reach test ran 27 percent more efficiently. Despite Radcliffe’s famously ungainly form, her 15 percent improvement in running economy between 1992 and 2003 corresponded with her ascent to world-beater status.

When it comes to running economy, some studies have found that Kenyans have an edge over American and European runners. Why is unclear, but having longer legs (as a proportion of body height) and thinner calves may allow the average Kenyan to expend slightly less energy with each stride. It’s worth noting that the Kenyans who dominate world marathon lists generally do little, if any, weight training, which may represent an untapped source of improvement.

No one has yet managed the daunting balance between oxygen supply and demand required by a two-hour marathon. So far, today’s top runners fall short because either their supply (VO2 max) is too low or their demand (running economy) is too high, but both sides of the equation already exist. Creating the sub-two marathoner doesn’t require a superhero with physiological traits never before seen in humans. It will just take someone who combines the best VO2 max and running economy of today’s fastest runners.

Supply More, Demand Less

To run a sub-two an athlete must deliver more oxygen in two hours than his body requires to cover 26.2 miles. That means the blue bar (estimated from lab measurements of VO2 max) must be higher than the green bar (calculated from running economy data). To date, that hasn’t happened. But if we combine the best known VO2 max (from ultrarunner Matt Carpenter) and best known value of running economy (world half-marathon record holder Zersenay Tadese), a sub-two is theoretically possible (see The Perfect Runner, below).

O2 supply (VO2 max) in two hours

O2 demand (running economy) for 26.2 miles

Lowering the Bar

Between 1992 and 2003, Paula Radcliffe’s oxygen supply (blue) stayed roughly constant, but her oxygen demand (green) improved, allowing her to set the current women’s marathon world record of 2:15:25.

SOURCES: AMERICAN COLLEGE OF SPORTS MEDICINE, BRITISH JOURNAL OF SPORTS MEDICINE, DR. MICHAEL JOYNER,
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPORTS SCIENCE & COACHING

Location and Frequency of Top Results

1984–1998 () vs. 1999–2013 ()

We examined top-20 marathon times worldwide for each of the 15 years before and after 1998 (600 performances total) to see where fast races were run. Before 1998, 44 cities (indicated by yellow dots) cracked the top 20; after 1998, just 25 did (indicated by green dots). Los Angeles made the list six times between 1984 and 1998, and zero since, while Amsterdam went from two fast results to 31.

Origin and Number of Top Runners

1984–1998 () vs. 1999–2013 ()

Prior to 1998, runners from 32 countries hit the top 20 (indicated by yellow dots). Post-1998, the fleetest hailed from just 16 countries (indicated by green dots). Ethiopia and Kenya account for three-quarters of the top results set between 1999 and 2013, while Mexico went from 17 runners in the top tier to none. Running world-class times now requires courses and runners to be nearly perfect.

SOURCE: ASSOCIATION OF ROAD RACING STATISTICIANS

2>HE’LL BE 5′ 6″ AND A BUCK-TWENTY SOAKING WET.

Between 1990 (the first year in which data was available) and 2011, the average male marathoner ranked in the top 100 that year shrank by 1.3 inches and 7.5 pounds. Smaller runners have less weight to haul around, yes. But they’re also better at heat dissipation; thanks to greater skin surface area relative to their weight, they can sustain higher speeds (and thus, greater internal heat production) without overheating and having to slow down. Despite our sub-two runner’s short frame, he’ll also have disproportionately long legs that help him cover ground and unusually slender calves that require less energy to swing than heavier limbs.

Shrinking Assets

Runners shed heat through their skin, so bigger runners should have an advantage, right? Indeed, a 6′ 3″ marathoner can dissipate 32 percent more heat than a 5′ 3″ athlete with the same BMI. But heat generation rises faster in bigger runners because mass increases quicker than skin area. So at the same effort, the 6′ 3″ guy ends up producing 42 percent more heat than his shorter peer—and overheating sooner.

Between 1990 and 2011, there was a 1.3-inch reduction in the average elite male marathoner’s height.

 

During the same time period, there was a 3.5 percent reduction in average finish times, from 2:11:49 to 2:07:10

Average marathon finish time

Average height

Heat dissipated (based on average body size)

Heat generated (based on average body size)

SOURCES: FRENCH NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SPORT, EXPERTISE, AND PERFORMANCE; ASSOCIATION OF ROAD RACING STATISTICIANS
Smaller runners generate less heat and dissipate it more efficiently, which helps them run faster for longer. The bigger the gap between heat generation and dissipation, the better.

3>HE’LL HAVE TOWERING SELF-CONFIDENCE AND VERY FAST FRIENDS.

Physiologists have shown that what you perceive as your physical limits depends on what you believe is possible—change your beliefs and you can push your limits. Unlike horses, for example, human racers can compare themselves to everyone who has come before them and convince themselves that it’s possible to go a little farther or faster. Such a (potentially) record-breaking state of mind requires athletes to enter what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a “flow state” of deep focus and full immersion in a task mediated by brain chemicals like dopamine and endorphins. And as Steven Kotler points out in The Rise of Superman, among the most powerful ways of triggering these brain chemicals is with group flow, when people are united in the pursuit of a difficult goal, like they are at the training camps in East Africa that have produced today’s top marathoners. Some observers believe the biggest difference between Kenyan and American runners right now is that every Kenyan runner truly believes, “One day will be my day.” It’s easier for a young runner to nurture that belief when he can train with, learn from, and share in the success of world-beaters. Whoever finally runs a sub-two-hour marathon will have to start with the belief that it’s possible, that he’s the one to do it, and that he won’t get there alone.

Hoof vs. Foot

One way to isolate the brain’s role in smashing records is to compare runners with horses. For the first half of the 20th century, thoroughbreds and humans got steadily faster. But since 1950, winning times in major races like the Kentucky Derby have stagnated, while at major marathons, they’ve dropped by more than 15 percent. Unlike horses, humans can alter what they believe is possible—and push their limits.

Kentucky Derby—winning times

Fastest marathoner in the world that year

SOURCE: KENTUCKY DERBY, ASSOCIATION OF ROAD RACING STATISTICIANS
Secretariat ran 1:59 in 1973—a record that still stands. When Dennis Kimetto of Kenya ran 2:02:57 in Berlin in September, he broke the previous record of 2:03:23 set by Kenyan Wilson Kipsang in Berlin in 2013.

4>HE’LL HAVE ACCESS TO THINGS WE CAN’T IMAGINE.

Using the past to predict the future obviously doesn’t account for the emergence of new trends and techniques. When physiologist Michael Joyner and his colleagues wrote a Journal of Applied Physiology paper in 2011 on the prospects for a sub-two marathon, the journal published a staggering 38 responses from other researchers suggesting possible factors that might bring the barrier closer, like tracking subtle variations in heart rate, processing carbs more quickly, and prenatal exposure to high altitudes. Only time will tell if one of these factors—or something no one has yet considered—triggers a breakthrough for marathoners like full-body swimsuits did for swimmers.

5> HE’LL BE IN HIS EARLY TWENTIES—AND FEARLESS.

When 21-year-old Sammy Wanjiru surged to an early lead in the sweltering heat of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Marathon, the RW live blog noted: “Crazy pace. If someone can maintain this, it’s a miracle.” He won by 44 seconds, clocking a 2:06:32—a time observers had thought impossible in temperatures that topped 84°F. That performance changed perceptions of the marathon. Before 2008, it was considered an older runner’s event, one attempted by those in their late 20s or early 30s after honing their skills on the track, and the distance was treated with respect, even fear. After the 2008 Games, however, younger runners began skipping the track in favor of 26.2 and—call it the Wanjiru Effect—they ran hard from the gun. Wanjiru died in 2011, at age 24, in a drunken fall from a balcony. We’ll never know how fast he could have become, but we will have a chance to watch the progression of those he inspired, like 18-year-old Ethiopian Tsegaye Mekonnen, who ran 2:04:32 last year in his marathon debut, after ripping through the first half in just 1:01:39. Remember that name.

Getting Younger—and Faster

Since Sammy Wanjiru’s remarkable run in the 2008 Olympics, the average age of the top 100 marathoners has dropped more than a year. Runners are more aggressive, too: Halfway splits by winners of the Chicago, London, and Berlin marathons have sped up by more than a minute over the same period, resulting in faster finishing times. Wanjiru may have sparked a revolution.

Of top 100 marathoners for that year

Of Chicago, London, Berlin marathons

SOURCE: ASSOCIATION OF ROAD RACING STATISTICIANS

THE DREAM

The road is so flat and straight, you can see them coming from a mile away. Six runners flow in arrowhead formation around the Canadian city of Saskatoon. The early November air is still and dry, the sky overcast, and the temperature hovers a bit above freezing, just as predicted.

All in their early 20s, they’ve been training together for this moment for years; only in the last month did their coach select which three will go for the record. The remaining three form the front of the arrowhead, blocking the wind and enduring the mental effort of controlling the pace. Should one of them cross the finish line in two hours—or faster—all six will share equally in the $50 million jackpot promised by the heirs to the Hoka One One fortune. The pot of money is up for grabs, for any runner, anywhere in the world. The chase is on.

So, will they make it? And what year is this? We’ve cut the distance to the sub-two marathon in half since 1998, but it will get progressively harder to trim the remaining seconds. Still, the physiologists tell us that it’s not impossible, meaning it is possible. I’m saying the year is…2075—and they make it.

Xterra Trail Running World Championships.

This post is a race report I have done from my adventures in Hawaii in December 2016.

A big Thank you to everyone who helped me achieve this great success including my sponsors:

  • Don at Phiten NZ
  • Robert at Purebread NZ
  • Marewa at PURE Sports nutrition
  • Rob at New Balance NZ
  • Nina at GU Energy NZ

Xterra Trail Running World Championships 21km, Kualoa Ranch,  Kaa’awa, Oahu, Hawai’i

  • 4/12/2016
  •  6th Place Overall
  • 2nd Place 20-24 age group
  • Time 1:33:08

  rego

 Leading up to race day I tried to stay as calm and relaxed as possible, going through the similar process again helped me take my mind off the race, knowing that I had done all the preparation and now I just had to transfer that to the race.

This year the competition was going to be very strong, in my opinion better than that of 2015 made me a muddled combination of nervousness and excitement which made sleeping the night before the race somewhat challenging. It’s not every day that a kid from Scottish gets to race against the elites with some very impressive credentials such as: Joesph Gray, 2016 World Mountain running Champion, Patrick Smyth, 3x defending champion and 10th place getter at NY marathon. Chad Hall, younger brother of Ryan Hall, 2x Olympian & the fastest American ½ marathoner in history but an impressive athlete in his own right. Nick Arciniaga, holder of a 2:11 Marathon PB and Thomas Puzey, who finished 14th at the 2016 IAU 50km Championships to name a few.  

 Returning to such a magical place is hard to describe but it is really picture perfect, funny that seeing as many movies have been set here, such as Jurassic Park and Pearl Harbour and the opportunity makes the experience all the more memorable. After the pre-race Hawaiian blessing I am standing on the start line and next thing we are all in one big mass taking off down the road like it’s a 5k.  

xterra-race-2
Tearing off at a blistering pace, not sure how long I can keep this up for!! behind me, Thomas Puzey (USA Singlet finished 8th)

A quick glance of my watch at 1k and I see 3:47, which can either mean I have gone off too fast or I am feeling really good and I’m ready to run hard. After this stretch of the legs I settle into my rhythm and find myself in 9th place. This continues from about 2km until about 16km. During this time, I find myself lost amidst my own thoughts or my heavy breathing running on my own. At times I’m finding it difficult to keep with my early pace but I simply remind myself that it is just one foot in front of the other. The undulating and at times muddy nature of the course means that I always had to be 100% focused which can be very taxing but I just broke it down into small chunks and felt a sense of relief every time a mile marker appeared.

 

I caught sight of a runner in front of me at about 14km and was just the motivation I needed to try chase him down. I knew with the ‘death march’ hill coming up at 15k that this was an opportunity to dig deep and catch him. The closer I got gave me more motivation to push and I was within touching distance by the summit of the hill, which was followed promptly by the ‘mud mile’ which can be best described as thick ankle deep mud while running downhill with the option of ropes to assist you. I took my chance and passed him as he slipped over and try to best put as much daylight between us. Now passing over the Kaa’awa valley for the 2nd time, it was so slippery from all the other runners who had gone after us, this made it very difficult to stay on my feet.     

 

xterra-race-1
Grinding it out, Trying to get into that zone.

I heard another runner closing in behind me and I tried my best to hold him off but he shot passed me as I myself slipped in the mud. I recognised him and his white t-shirt as he shouted out ‘keep it up dude, you’re going well.’ He was in front of me at the start so now I was a bit bemused as to how and why he had come up and passed me. Despite this seeing the finishing line in sight on the horizon kept me pushing all the way. He did not get any further in front and was still in sight so I decided that I should give one last kick for the finish. I closed the gap to 10 seconds, then 5 as we ran off the switchbacks and down to the finishing chute but it wasn’t enough as he finished a whisker in front of me, a mere 2 seconds. As I saw the clock at 1:33:08 as I finished, I was overjoyed as I had ran faster, in tougher conditions than last year. It took a while for me to catch my breath at the finish and the realisation that I had been able to finish and leave everything out there flooded me in something that can only be described as crying with joy.

xterra

After this I talked to the guy who finished in front of me, Jacob. It is only at this point that I realise what unfolded during the race. As it turns out, Patrick Smyth who was in 2nd at the time got DQ for taking a wrong turn and behind him Jacob, along with two other runners took wrong turns, and consequently lost time finding their way back onto the course. This had meant that when I was in 9th I was actually in 6th, and when I was briefly in 8th, I was actually in 5th before he was the only one who managed to catch back up and pass me. Although I felt sorry for them, as an athlete you have to take your luck when it comes and that is simply the nature of trail running and that anything can happen on the day.

 

I was initially a little disappointed when he had beat me and finding out that he was in the same age category as me, then thinking that maybe I could have pushed harder in that final run for home, but then I reminded myself that my goal going into the race was to get top 10 and that if I ran a time close to that of last years or better that I would be very happy and managing to achieve both of those was very satisfying. From then on I just tried to soak in all the day and the atmosphere of the race. As it turned out it started to rain, which is quite rare in Hawaii but very much like Wellington which reminded me of home.

 

 xterra-race-3

 

 So luckily for me, my 6th place effort resulted in me winning US$250 which was cool and some sponsor freebies which I somehow had to find room for in my luggage. After my 2 seconds of fame on the podium and being presented with my 2nd place medal, what I will treasure most about my race experience is the people, who really make the sport of running, regardless of the discipline one that unites people together, with a shared understanding of the joy and freedom. This being a feeling, location time and place that I plan to return to one day in future.

 To find out more about the Xterra Trail running series:

http://www.xterraplanet.com/trailrun/

 Xterra Trail Run worlds website including links to full results, photos and race report & video http://www.xterraplanet.com/trailrun/worlds/

May you go where the path leads you.

Happy Running

Niam

 

 

 

Birth of Good Form Running NZ

Greetings fellow athletes, runners, self-discovers, go-getters, health enthusiasts and everybody I am privileged to connect with! 😄

Follow my website and my blogs where I am going to share with you an insight into my running adventures and everything that enables me to perform to my potential. 🏃

This will enable everyone who is a part of the process, to connect with my journey & allow me to give them the recognition they deserve in helping me to become the person I am today.

I will also endeavour to discuss non running related topics and the importance of this translating into optimal health and happiness. These are two things which I feel are very important to achieve in everything we do as this allows for attainment of our true potential regardless of the discipline. 🙏

Stay tuned for more. I hope you too are excited to explore “the path” less travelled further with me 🌟

Carpe Diem ~ ‘Seize the day’
Niam
Good Form Running NZ