On Sunday I completed the Great South Run in an incredibly windy Portsmouth in a new personal best time of 1:52:37.
The full on headwind in the last two miles slowed me down to what felt like a crawl and stole at least a minute per mile off my pace. In the right conditions I know I would have been even quicker.
So, that’s a personal best time set at every distance I’ve raced over this year. And yet I’ve done a lot less running than I did last year and taken part in far fewer races. So what’s made the difference for me?
1) Losing fat and weight. It’s no secret that being lighter makes it easier to run. I am carrying over a stone less weight than I was for most of 2012 and that’s clearly made a difference to my times
2) Strength training. This has been absolutely key. Thanks to finding Julia Buckley’s The Fat Burn Revolution: Boost Your Metabolism and Burn Fat FastI now workout with weights at least twice and sometimes 3 times a week. And they are ‘proper’ weights that really challenge me – I work to failure and push my body outside of its comfort zone. My body has rewarded my efforts with really rather strong legs.
3) Interval training. Last year I did most of my running at the same, steady pace. This year all that has changed. Out with most of the plodding sessions and in with some short, intense interval sessions. They make my lungs feel like I’m going to explode but have done my fitness no end of good.
4) Core strength. Through Julia’s workouts and regular sessions at Tempo Pilates my core strength has dramatically improved. My record for holding a plank currently stands at 3 and a half minutes. Underneath the layer of fat that remains I am convinced there is a six pack just waiting to make an appearance!
All these things added together are what’s improved my running. Not lots of long slow runs, in fact they have barely featured in my training this year. And when I do schedule in a long run then I’m actually enjoying them far more than I did last year when they were a weekly slog, most of the time to be endured.
I intend to take my new approach to training into my London marathon training when I start in earnest towards the end of the year. I’m going to have to increase the proportion of my training time that I spend running for sure, but I have no intention to going back to ‘just running’.
For me this year has proved that to become a better runner I need to do more than run.