Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Training for Fell running

"You just can't train for them hills".
Said one of our running club, after a bit of a disappointing race in Wales.

To be honest, I must beg to differ. That is what training is all about. Find something that is hard. Practice it til it becomes easier. What I am interested in is what different people do in order to get better. There isn't really a formula for success which if you apply it to anyone, it will make them into a champion, but if you look at enough people and the way in which they train, a pattern might emerge, and you may get a better idea of what might be involved in becoming a better fell runner.

Yes, some people may find training a bit of a "cheat" way of getting faster- or at least, focussed training, but perhaps the best thing to remember is perhaps what Billy Bland said.
"Its not the will to win - but the will to prepare to win".

So with that in mind, I've delved into a couple of books, done a bit of research into running, and mountain running as well, and this is what I've come up with so far.

Starting with a blatent rip off of anything I could find in "Feet in the Clouds".

Kenny Stuart, 5’5’’, 8st - on a good day
Kenny - photo from Woodentops
A gardener by trade. He trained theoretically under a Cerutty/Lydiard system, comprising of a large endurance base, but also included fartlek, reps and intervals. When he was at the top of the game, he was averaging 70 miles a week “on the road, in the dark” - not something that a lot of fellrunners around my neck of the woods would either enjoy, admit to, or indeed, do. He rarely reached more than 90 miles a week and had a huge rivalry with John Wild, perhaps spurring him on to greater things.
Post fell running, he was going above 100miles a week and began feeling flat and stale and ended up tired all the time- eventually stopping running altogether, 

Billy Bland 10st 7
A sheep farmer. At first he was hitting 40-50 miles a week, but progressed to 70-100 miles a week. On the fell. No-one else ran that kind of training distance on the fells. He apparently had no specific target, just a "run til you drop" attitude. He realised that the better he got, the more he could train. That being said, Billy
never really imposed as much on short races than he did on long. Even Joss said of him -“no-one trained as much as billy”. 
His training was typified by hard miles on difficult ground and he had no truck with coaching or reps.

A sheep farmer. Typical evening run 12 miles. Wasdale, highfoot, yewbarrow and pillar. 
I'm sure there is more info out there on Joss's training, but I just haven't found it yet. 

Killian Jornet
Pro athlete for Salomon. His training philosophy is pretty much - just run. If you are going to count something, don’t count miles, count metres of ascent. (he is very much focussed on high mountain running though - and apparently an average week foe him is 10,000m ascent). When training for a race, stay
focussed on the distance/height gain for it, and practice specifically for that.

Gordon Pirie
Ok - so not a fell runner, but a running great who worked ridiculously hard for his wins. The basic premise was to workout the distance you wanted to run, and how fast you wanted to run it. Split it into 400s and run each 400 as close to the pace as you could. You then reduce the rest intervals until you can combine them and you're running consecutive 400s as fast as you need. Gordon did legendary rep sessions- as in 50-100 reps of 200m at a time.  

Arther Lydiard
Legendary coach of New Zealand runners- I'm certainly not going to be able to write down everything that has been written about him, but the basic idea is do massive mileage - base endurance of 110miles per week, and then use periodisation in order to peak for certain races at certain points of the year.

Maffetone- the man credited with helping Ironman Mark Allen win a load of World titles at in his mid-to-late thirties advocates increasing Aerobic capacity ONLY - no speed work or threshold work at all until a couple of months before a race- so running at about 65% HR and never, (I mean NEVER) going above.

Noakes- The man that brought us The Lore of Running - In his 4th edition, he still advocates a base of Aerobic training at no more than 75% max HR, followed by a 6 week sharpening hill sprint program before competition. According to him, any mileage done between 75%-85% is just junk. 
It's too intense for easy training, and not hard enough for hard training, and will just end up in burn out. 
He also advocates strength training to improve muscle recruitment - but not muscle size.

The problem - or perhaps the great thing - about fellrunning is that we all come in different shapes and sizes. Not only that, but if you really want to, you can pretty much race every weekend of the year, not worrying about training as such, but just blasting around race courses as hard as you can. However, I think at the top end of the sport at the moment, there is a bit more thought going into training and racing.

From what I know- rumour/chats and general hearsay, this may (or indeed may not) be what the top guys are up to at the moment.
Sheep farming. (you know who I mean).
Cyclo-cross racing in the winter months (Jebby and Si Harding)
Track sessions (there is a reason why Andi Jones was so good at the Snowdon races- he can run incredibly fast on a track, and although he can't descend, hell he can climb better than most of us).
Large amounts of Road cycling - (Will Neill, Tom Brunt, and probably a load of others)
Orienteering- otherwise known as fast map reading, interval training and falling over practice - Oli Johnstone, Murray Strain, Nic Barber (yes, nic, I'm including you in this as you're still faster than me).

I'm sure there are more, and when I think of them, or someone else tells me, I'll add it on.
Yes, I might be a little obsessed with training, but when you are blessed with a complete lack of running talent, such as I was, you've got to take what you can get.
As far as I can see at the moment, I need to buy a sheep farm in Borrowdale, and get a CX bike.

1 comment: