Speed Does Not Equal Effort

Now before im chased out of the village with pitchforks ablaze, hear me out…

I am a local club coach and like most clubs we have runners of all abilities. We have marathon winners all the way down to those completing their first 5k.

Now here is the thing that sets me apart from most coaches i meet and people either look at me like i’m a crazy man when they first come for a session or they ‘get it’.

                             I don’t prescribe times in training sessions!!!

Am I right or not? who knows but i can explain my actions,

I’m a fan of RPE or Rate of Perceived Exertion


I prefer RPE for the simple reason that pace is very subjective and can vary massively from session to session.If its slightly too hot, too windy, you have had a hard day at work or you simply just cant be arsed then your normal cruising pace can feel like you are going for the 5k world record!

This doesn’t help anyone

So much of running is mental,your mind will turn against you much quicker than your body will and what is the first thing we ALL do when we cant hit a pace we did last week? we doubt ourselves and our training without taking into consideration the outside variables.

This is why perceived effort is a much better gauge for most…..

If we use for example 300m repeats,instead of asking my squad to hit them in for example 60 seconds each i ask for about a 7/8 effort because whatever the weather or how you feel an 8 out of 10 run will always feel hard regardless of pace!

Which brings me back to my title Speed does not equal effort. If you hooked up a sub 18 min 5k runner to a heart rate monitor and a 40 min 5k runner to a heart rate monitor and asked them at the end what effort they had put in ,I bet % of max HR and rate of RPE of both runners will be about the same! (i’m not talking exact but close enough).

There are several reasons why some people can run faster than others

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Myself for example, im lucky as i finish work at 4pm everyday and i have no Children plus a very understanding Wife. This means i can pretty much train whenever i want. Others however may have two jobs, work 60 hours a week and may have kids to take care of therefore they may only have half the training budget i have.

Other may not simply have the correct biomechanics to run efficiently (don’t worry this can be fixed) and therefore they will not cover the ground as smoothly as someone with more experience.

What it does not mean however is just because you run faster that you are a ‘better’ runner.  A couple of weeks ago my wife and i ran a 5k. I hit a PB of 17.28 and Debs a PB of 27.14 both taking around 40 seconds from our previous bests. So who was the better runner? Me because i was faster or did we both work as hard as we could to achieve our goal?

In my eyes that makes us equal.

The clue is in the name PERSONAL best (or PR if you live across the pond). Your priority should be in becoming the best you can be and not comparing yourself to what someone else is doing.

That being said there is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best in the club/county/country at what you do but not at the cost of looking down at someone that may not be as ‘fast’ as you are as speed is a poor judge of effort.

This also works the other way,the fast boys and girls in your club are not born that way,they work hard too and suffer from the same doubts and fears as someone who has just started out (trust me i have worn both hats).

They are also not mystical unicorns and most will be more than happy to help you in any way they can (Trust me most runners LOVE talking about running). I have learnt loads from talented international runners and coaches just by being cheeky and sending an email! (you can’t do that in football!).

Embrace all runners,not just the ones around your own level.Spend a little time getting to know people in the groups above and below your own,you never know they be alright after all 😉



This week in running XXL #11

The bumper episode…

Well life has been hectic the last few weeks and i had to let the blog take a little back seat. Unfortunately for you im back!

I bought a new watch

So since my adventure overnight in the lakes i’ve bought a new toy, a lovely Garmin fenix 5 sapphire! it’s a mighty piece of kit and i’m still trying to get used to the multitude of functions!


Wiggle sent it in a giant box!

I ran 2 miles down and 2 miles up

As a club we compete in the central Lancs grand prix,a series of races put on by the member clubs.this week was the turn of Wigan Phoenix and there race the haigh hall 4 mile.

The race is a simple as it sounds,2 miles downhill through Haigh country park and then back uphill to the finish. I had heavy legs from my overnight adventure in the lakes still and although i was disappointed with my positioning ,i was still 40 seconds up from my time in 2017!


I raced a 5k

My wife has been competing in a midweek 5k series at Hollingworth lake and last week i decided to have a crack myself. Those who know me,know how much i dislike 5k.Give me a marathon anyday!

I had a few clubmates coming down for a shootout as well with three of us trying to break 18 minutes for the first time. My PB of 18.08 had stood for nearly 18 months!

The night was glorious,sunny but not too hot with a slight breeze. Before i knew it we lined up on the start line ,Chris,Rob and Myself ready to go like those wind up cars you had as a kid.

On the gun i went out like a bullet and within the first couple of minutes i realised i had gone out far too quick (remember i hate 5ks!) a quick glance at my watch at mile 1 gave me a finish time of mid 16 mins, well above my capabilities ! 32929388_10214765788192147_4669269508253286400_o

Look at the excitement on my face 😉 (photo courtesy of Paul Taylor)

With the final mile aproaching i was hurting and i mean really hurting but i knew that if i stepped off the gas too much Both Chris and Rob who are both class runners would sail past and slap me on the arse for my troubles !

With the finish line almost in view it was clear i was going to PB and i crossed the line in 17.28! a full 40 seconds knocked off my previous best,i was and still am buzzing but i don’t think i will race another one too soon!

The lads both hit sub 18 as well with teammate John just outside 18 but still with a massive PB. My wife also hit a PB in the race clocking 27.23!

I worked at an ultramarathon

On the Saturday i had offered to volunteer at the first Chester 100. The guys behind the Chester 50 have extended the course to add another 100 to there catalogue . I really enjoyed the 50 ,so much so i’m already in again for next year! My main goal for 2019 is a 100 miler and what better way to give back to the community and experience first hand what they are all about than to volunteer at an event?

Now the guys at GB ultras know how to put on an event , Entries are open for next years 50 already so why don’t you join me?

My day started with a 4am drive to get to the start at Waverton for a briefing at 5.10AM. I met with the RDs Jonathan,Wayne And Haydn, super nice chaps and its clear to see they love this sport!

I knew a few runners taking part and after a quick catch up i had to let them get ready to go (I was a little gutted i wasn’t joining them,nervous energy on race day morning is very contagious!)

I was working a double shift ,helping at CP1 and then over to the halfway point at CP6.


Playing butler to my friend and event winner ,ultramarathon man Charlie Sharpe

It was great to be at the event and although i didn’t get back home till nearly midnight i would do it again in a heartbeat!


I also ran a marathon

Sunday brought the Windermere marathon,my Wife and i set of at 7am for the drive up to the lakes. Arriving home at midnight may not of been the best prep for a marathon but this was always going to be just a hard training session for my big race this year, the Lakeland 50 miles in July.

My teammate Neal was also running and we knew on the right day he could pull something special off here after he finished 4th on the 2017 edition. on the way to the start Neal and I had a last min coaching chat and we ironed out the game plan.

To say he nailed the plan would be an understatement , took the lead at mile ten and led the rest of the way,finishing 3 minutes up on second place!

All the way round the second half i got such an amazing boost as people told me that a Radcliffe vest was leading,i just had everything crossed that he could hold it. Updates stopped with a mile to go and it was a real nervous time to the finish! I clocked 3.08 and was pretty happy.Not half as happy as i was to see a smiling Neal at the finish line letting me know he had won!!


With the champion of Windermere!

While waiting for the presentation there was only one thing i wanted to do,grab a beer and get in the lake.My wife thought i was joking but………..FB_IMG_1526837162441

The perfect end to the race.

The weekend was busiest i have had for a long time, This bank holiday i hope will be a bit more relaxed!





The Yorkshire Three Peaks 2018

So Saturday 28th April was The Three Peaks fell Race.This was my main Spring target after deciding not to race a Spring marathon.

Now i wished i had signed up to a nice flat road 26.2 miles!

The Three Peaks for those not aware is billed as ‘The Marathon with Mountains’ it takes in the Yorkshire peaks of Pen Y Ghent ,Whernside and Ingleborough. Although it’s only 23 miles it does have 5000ft of climb or ten Blackpool towers!


On arrival you see just how slick the Three peaks is, I collected my number and had my gear checked in double quick time! All runners need to carry full FRA kit as minimum,(Waterproof top and trousers,hat,gloves,map ,compass and emergency food) all of which i carried in my trusty ultimate direction Peter Bakwin Pack.


A few of my friends and teammates also ran and the usual nervous chit chit was in full flow but before i knew it it was time for the off!



The Start line


Now to say i was nervous at the off was an understatement,The race has strict cutoffs in three different locations and better fell runners than me have been timed out in the past so my game plan for the first half was to run a fine line between not getting timed out and not blowing up by setting off too fast.

I needn’t of worried about setting off too fast,the race was BUSY! i was forced to nothing more than a walk up the first climb (pen y ghent) Partly due to the numbers and partly due to my starting point midpack.


The queue up PYG

As i reached the top i began to panic that i wouldn’t hit the first cut off so decided to gun it down the descent,five steps later i slipped on my arse and decided to slip back into a more leisurely pace!

Between PYG and Whernside is a lovely stretch of 10k or so mainly flat trails.A few team mates had warned me not to go off like a rabbit here otherwise i wouldn’t make it round

“the race doesn’t start till Whernside”

is something i heard many many times on the run up to the race.

Hitting the first Checkpoint 25 mins up a little bit of relief spread over and i continued on the next CP at the impressive Ribblehead viaduct


Ribblehead Viaduct

A drink refill (you get your own drinks transported to two checkpoints on the race) , and it was off to Whernside.

Now i don’t mind telling you Whernside hurt, a lot! the climb is not the same as the tourist path as we go straight up the side and getting to the top i was on all fours willing myself to the summit and screaming at myself in my head for missing all those hill sessions! The descent was ok, a fair few runners dislike the whernside descent due to the paving flags but as it was a dry day they caused no issues for me at all. Apart from my screaming quads that is!

From Whernside you hit the last Checkpoint you can be timed out at which is hill inn. I shouldn’t of been so worried about Timing out as much as i arrived here 33 mins up of the cut off, maybe if i had set off a little quicker i may of blown up, who knows?

The final climb Ingleborough has a lovely nickname at my club ‘ingleb#stard’ and it lives up to it spectacularly . While almost as steep as Whernside it didn’t feel half as bad but crikey the steps towards the summit are a killer. When i finally approached the summit and some decent running ground my legs simply had forgot how to move!

So that was the three peaks right?

Wrong , after summiting Ingleborough you still have 3.5 miles to get to the finish but it was mostly down hill and decent tracks.

A road runners dream , ie moi.

As soon as i hit the tracks i felt recharged and took 36 places in those last 3 miles ( I still finished 306th but im taking it).

I was greeted by my wife with about 200m to go which is always a boost and managed a sprint finish to the line, finishing in 4:19:51.

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A little down on my rather optimistic time of 4.10 but i now know the course and can attack it properly next year (although i doubt we will ever have a lovelier day than today!).




This Week In Running #10

The one with the overnight adventure in the Lake district.

After last Saturdays three peaks i had decided to rest and let my legs recover from the gruelling descents of PYG, Whernside and Ingleborough, I did nothing more than some light jogging and a trip to the gym,

Well until Friday that is…..

I had planned on a recce of some parts of the Bob Graham round with my teammates Fiona and Scott (I have no intention of doing the round but its fun to be outdoors!)

After a day at work Friday i drove up to the lakes and met Fiona around 6pm (Scott was to meet us later on at the end of leg 1).

After sorting gear out,leaving my car at our finish point we drove to Keswick and was off for our first peak just before 7pm. Any running in the lakes should be taken with care and even though it was a glorious day i still had plenty of gear just incase the weather turned (The lake district has its own microclimate and never stay dry for long!!).


I also had a dry bag with spare top and bottoms plus first aid kit!

The night was fantastic ,lovely and clear if just a little too warm for my liking and we picked the peaks off one by one with ease,( Which seeing as i was on nav is no mean feat i tell you!)


Keswick below

The final climb of leg one is Blencathra, darkness had set in and we had on our head torches. My petzl Nao never missed a beat all night! On the way up we noticed a head torch in the distance so went to investigate in case it was a walker in trouble (Blencathra is fairly remote and its always best to check on people of in doubt).

It was in fact not a walker but a guy camping who told us we were only the 4th and 5th people he had seen all day!

After the summit of Blencathra the standard Bob Graham route gives you two options,straight down Halls fell ridge is common or double back to Doddick fell.

I don’t mind telling you Halls fell ridge,in the dark is no fun!!

Neither of us had attempted it before and didn’t really know the lines so after wasting maybe 45 minutes attempting it we doubled back on safety grounds and took on the easier runnable descent of Doddick. (which meant much to Scott’s enjoyment we was 90 minutes late for the meetup!!)

After our grovelling to Scott and a refill of water and Coca Cola he had so kindly brought us we set of for leg 2 the time is now 12.05am ,planned start of leg 2 was around 10.30pm

By now i was really tired , not from exercise as the pace had been easy but knackered. I had been at work from 7pm to 3pm and i was starting to flag,every step felt like a real effort.

We really worked well as a trio, Scott and Fiona are much more experienced in the hills than I and we all made sure that each other kept eating/drinking at regular intervals.

At the summit of Clough Head we all stopped to soak in the stars in the sky, with not a cloud to be seen it really was sight to behold (i just wish i had a proper camera with me as my mobile just couldn’t do it justice.)

About half an hour later we got treated to the most incredible moon rise i have ever seen! living in towns really does make me appreciate the beauty of true darkness.

Bagging the summit of Raise around 2.45 A.M

Climbing towards Helvellyn the weather changed and the clag had come in pretty hard,so much so we lost the path at one point and walked around in a big circle before we stopped to take compass bearings to sort ourselves out!

We then decided to cut leg 2 short as we were all tired and nursing little niggles we had acquired during the adventure so instead of heading towards Fairfield we cut off down towards civilisation and my car at Dunmail Raise.

After a quick game of drop the tired runners off to their own cars,we regrouped at Lancaster services for breakfast. I almost cried into my coffee and greggs bacon and sausage sandwich after eating nothing but gels since 4pm the day before,it tasted bloody delicious!!

I finally arrived back at my house and my lovely bed at 8.30 Am, 26.5 hours after i had last left it! I haven’t been awake that long since my teens!


I absolutely bloody loved the adventure and i thank Fiona and Scott for being part of it and making sure we all got round in one piece. I can’t wait for the next time!!



Delirious at 3 am