Dr Dick Telford has a most impressive understanding of marathon training. From 2002 – 2005 I was fortunate to have Dick as my coach and learn the marathon craft. Three of those years were in Canberra as a part of Dick’s large squad which included runners from all around the country. Some runners had scholarships to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and others, like me, were attracted to the quality coaching and environment Dick could provide.
Being in my mid-twenties with a group of like-minded young men was fun but also dangerous as we looked to punish each other in training sessions in a bid to gain the ’edge’. Dick spent much of his time trying to explain the physiological subtleties of our training workouts and imploring that they need not be races!
Fortunately when it came time for me to make the step up to the marathon the group of training buddies quickly diminished! I was also fortunate that Dick’s method of bringing a well-trained runner up to the marathon was merely to tweak the training pattern that already existed. Slightly longer long runs, a couple extra morning jogs while the speed workouts remained exactly the same every week. The genius of the program was the splattering of a half dozen marathon specific workouts in the three months prior to the race. Nothing crazy, just a little challenge to take the athlete one step closer to the end goal; maintaining the highest possible intensity for the entire marathon distance.
Today was one such session, the â€œ6k thumpingâ€ as my good mate Philo Saunders phrased it at the time. It came about after as after completing our usual 18mile or 29km at Stromlo forest after which Canberra Dick had requested that I do a ’bit of a surge’ on tired legs. Given that I had spent 2 hours chasing Philo and others on the dirt trails of Stromlo I was keen to do the surge on a bitumen surface. This had been championed to me by Paul Imhoff when I had joined him for his marathon preparations runs the year before.
Canberra is rich in bike path infrastructure and I had no trouble to find one close to the end of the 18 mile long run loop. Conveniently marked with Dave Cundy* measured kilometre markers I took off on the superb surface (anything feels superb after the Stromlo 18 miler!) and knocked out a 6k out and back at marathon speed, the addition took the overall run up to 35km. Perfect. Dick was happy so I did it again a month later and the marathon itself went really well.
So being a ’creature of habit’ the 6k thumping has since been a regular part of my marathon preparation. Typically done twice or perhaps three times in the final 12 weeks I find it the perfect distance to add onto a tired body. It’s a big withdrawal from the training bank but not enough to send me into debt.
Today in Newcastle the cold westerly was blowing but the sun shone as our training group got smaller, and smaller, and smaller. I guess I should have warned them!
There was nothing awe-inspiring about me taking off at the 25km mark in the run and ’thumped’ out two laps of our standard 3k circuit. Other Rio bound runners will be doing that and much more, others less. But for me 6k is enough, it’s been tried and tested and for this experiment of one, it just works.
*Dave Cundy is Australia’s highest ranked run course measurer. The role of a course measurer is to use a calibrated bicycle to accurately measure the length of a running route including the placement of km markers. It is a lengthy process and once completed km markers are often left as paint marks on the road surface for ease of placement the following year.