Anatomy of a track session

starting2It is traditional at some athletic clubs to do a track session once a week. This photo-essay describes one such session that I coached at Barnet and District AC earlier this winter, at Allianz Park stadium, Hendon (formerly Copthall stadium). My thanks got to the athletes for agreeing to be photographed, and to my friend Dave Woodfall, whose photos they all are. [Click on any of the photos to view larger versions]

coachIt was a mixed group of Senior athletes, whose events range from 800m, through 10k, to the marathon, taking in triathlon on the way. We started with warm-up and drills. Being Seniors they do their own drills, usually in a group, and here I am checking on any ongoing injury issues, or race results since I last saw the athletes. The session was a mid-winter one, consisting of 2 x 1200m, 2 x 800m, followed by 5 x 400m. A tough one, but one that many ‘enjoy’, partly I suspect because of the variety.startingAfter a briefing on how the session works we got going on the first long rep. There is usually nervous banter as the athletes line up, although some have already gone awfully quite in anticipation of the efforts to come.
As they come through after the first lap I call out the elapsed time on my stopwatch, whilst out of the corner of my eye trying to see who is going well on the night (and perhaps who is not). Alex is going well.

5andiesThe Andies are also going well at this point, with the others chasing hard. A variety of styles, knee lifts, arm carriages and other indiosyncracies will be seen. Someone new to the group may get some style feedback, but most of these are too far gone to change!

6Dani2[Memo to self: have a word with Danielle about that left arm!] Calling lap times, and probably churning out clichéd encouragement – which is unlikely to have any more depth and meaning than ‘well done’.

After each rep they may be some discussion of how it went. And apparently I often share previously heard anecdotes or give a piece of trivia to work out (got to keep minds active). Others may be off somewhere being/feeling sick.7Coaching8Coach2The next rep, and it looks as though Alex doesn’t trust coach as he is stopping his watch too. When the athletes are spread out I try to call the time, and then write it on my sheet (the back of on old race number) before the next athlete comes by.

9Alex+NiallThere is huge benefit in training together. Niall and (another) Alex are working together to get the most out of the reps, possibly sharing leads on each lap or rep. It looks like we are on the 800s.

10AndyCAndy is beginning to show the strain (sorry Andy, but the photo nicely demonstrated your commitment to the session). The rest of the group will be doing some good gurning by now, I am sure.

After the 1200s and 800s there was a longish recovery, which allowed some story telling, jokes and what looks like a motivational speech from Alex here.11Group12Nic+5O to the 400s now, and the gaps are too small to record times, so I yell them and then have to scuttle round asking them to repeat theirs to me (‘I wasn’t listening’ or ‘I forget’ sometimes coming back at me).
Nick brings the group home. We don’t have team training kit – they all have their t-shirt bounty from last week’s Watford half marathon. In this (and previous picture) you can see Karen (l) and Joe (r) testing each other.

14After a repFeel the strain. After each rep the first thought is probably to get some air into the lungs, and then to add one to the number of reps done. Most work on the addition principle rather than subtraction (ie how many done, not how many left). Remember ‘adaption comes in the recovery’.

15NickyNicky is a very dedicated trainer, who dashes off towards the end of the session most weeks to go and coach her hockey club colleagues. Loving the look of concentration on her face. She is in the zone.

16KatKat has joined the group to improve her running for her triathlons. These track sessions, together with the hill work I know she has done with Horwich RMI Harriers will surely reap benefits as her tri season unfolds.

17FeedbackGiving feedback to Alex (left) and to Karen (below) is an important part of the coach’s role. Then it is off on the warm down for them and home for me to email formal feedback to all (incl. their rep times).

18How was it for youIt is just possible that Karen is anticipating the next session and asking what it will be. It is also possible that I won’t remember, and have to ask someone else if they have read my advance notice!
[Next post: The dark art of coaching]n

Running Hard – London launch

The London launch for ‘Running Hard’ was held at Middlesex University on Mon 20 Feb. Highlights of proceedings are available on 4 short videos. Will ‘Critical Friend’ Morris introduces me wittily in the first clip.

There are then two clips of me rambling through two readings from the book.

Finally an interesting Q&A session ensued, wandering off topic sometimes maybe, but seemed to be enjoyed by most (and certainly was by me).

JohnWatlaunchDespite arriving late, John Wild then gave an informal chat to those present, and signing copies of the book for everyone, before some of us headed for The Greyhound to unwind.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening, which nicely complemented the Keswick launch two days beforehand. I am now off to consider what to write next! [Huge thanks to my friend Angus Macdonald for coming along to video the event, and for editing the resulting material]

All my books can be obtained from Amazon, and Running Hard and The Round can be found in all good book shops.

Videos from the Keswick launch

Here are a couple of short video clips from the Keswick book launch. The first is me reading a short extract from the book, describing the build-up to the last crucial race of the 1983 fell championship season.

In the second I am talking about and showing a clip of John Wild running at an IAC meeting at Crystal Palace in 1977, with some comments from John himself.

The third is winding up at the end of the event.
[Thanks to my friend Mike Cambray for shooting the videos on his iPhone]

I also showed a video clip from YouTube of Kenny Stuart running at the Kilnsey Crag fell race in 1980. It can be seen at this link. Definitely worth a look.

The Keswick Launch

On Saturday 18th February we held the book launch for ‘Running Hard’ in the Greta Suite at the Skiddaw Hotel, Keswick. There was a crowd of over 50 in attendance, including some fell running royalty. We sold out of books (with thanks to Bookends shop in Keswick). The following is a sort of picture record of the event (huge thanks to my friend Mike Cambray for the photos).

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A packed and enthralled crowd

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Being introduced by Mike Cambray, with a splash of Shakespeare

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A first reading from the book, on John and Kenny’s first race (Burnsall 1982)

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John Wild says a few words, with a younger version of himself on screen

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Kenny Stuart saying a few words

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A second reading from the book (on the 1983 fell champonship final race)

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Networking time after the formal launch event

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The author with two absolute running legends (John left, Kenny right)

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Relaxing in The Packhorse with family and friends after the event

NB: There may be a short video clip to add later

Video preview: ‘Running Hard’

So, what exactly is the story of ‘Running Hard’. Well, it is subtitled: ‘the story of a rivalry’, and the main characters are running legends Kenny Stuart and John Wild. But it is more than a fell running book. They were both exceptional runners in other branches of athletics, both in cross country and road running (Kenny running a 2-11 marathon), and John also at steeplechase (being a Commonwealth Games finalist). The book also tells the parallel stories of the lives with their different backgrounds, and is informed by insights from their contemporaries, such as Billy Bland, Joss Naylor, Jack Maitland, Hugh Symonds, and Malcolm Patterson.

To find out more see the Content page of this blog, and view the short video clip below. Follow the highlighted link to see what others have said about the manuscript.

Running Hard launch in Keswick, 2nd event on Monday evening

runninghardlaunchWe had a very successful book launch for ‘Running Hard’ in the Skiddaw Hotel (Keswick) on Saturday, with over 50 in attendance and the books (from Bookends) being sold out.

If you are in, or near, North London on Monday 20th Feb, there is a second event at Middlesex University (in the Boardroom) from 6-7pm, with John Wild in attendance. Come along to hear some stories. No ticket required, entry is free – just rock up.

More photos and stories from both launch events shortly.

‘Running Hard’ published today

bookoutI am pleased to announce that ‘Running Hard: the story of a rivalry’ is published today. It is the parallel stories of two running greats – Kenny Stuart and John Wild. It describes the lives of two very different athletes and covers in depth the 1983 Fell Running Championship season, when they were the two top runners battling to win the championship. John Wild was an international steeplechaser from the Midlands who had moved to the fells to go head-to-head with the Cumbrian born fell runner Kenny Stuart.

See information about the two launch events for the book, and also the excellent cover quotes that have been provided by some top athletes.