Monday, 16 October 2017

The Running Hard Blog Tour: guest post

I am delighted to welcome Steve Chilton to my blog as part of the Running Hard Blog Tour. His book Running Hard: the story of a rivalry is published in paperback on Thursday 19th October. It is a fascinating book covering the 1983 fell running season looking at the rivalry between Kenny Stewart and John Wild. These two set many fell running records, a number of which have still not been broken. So how did they train to get so fast and strong? Steve Chilton's blog has all the details. So over to Steve Chilton

Steve Chilton Guest Blog

When I was in my thirties I was a serious runner for a decade, and I THOUGHT I trained hard. I DIDN’T, I now realise. At the time I was running for my club in cross countries, doing marathons and also doing fell races and mountain marathons.   

Looking back through my diaries, and doing a few sums, made me realise three things. Firstly, that I never did particularly high mileage in my marathon build-ups. For instance I had an average of 55 miles/week in 18 weeks build to the 2-34-53 PB, with just one high week of 82 miles. Secondly, that I now seem to be advocating much higher mileages than I ever did myself for people that I advise on their marathon training. And thirdly, that there are lessons to be learned from what I did to try to take my time down even further than the PB the next year. In simple terms I tried to do more miles, and hard ones at that, and became injured. Lesson learned.

After the World Vets Champs at Keswick 2005. Credit Mike Cambray

I realised all this before I started researching my third book, although it does rather confirm my point. Running Hard: the story of a rivalry tells the life stories of two of fell running’s finest proponents, Kenny Stuart and John Wild. In the many interviews I did with both of them we discussed their attitude to training, and racing. There are also excerpts from both their training diaries in the book to back up their comments.

It is probably not stretching things too far to say that reflecting now neither of them think they were particularly hard trainers, though I think they were. They both argued that they trained well, and as much as possible, specifically. Originally I thought that perhaps John in particular was prone to over-training. In fact I challenged him on this at one point in the book, which elicited this exchange:

You might conclude that Wild might have been someone who had a tendency to over-train at times. I suggested just that to him, or that he just did not stop at warning signs sometimes. His robust response was, ‘not really, and there were sometimes I didn’t think I trained hard enough. I was briefly at [RAF] St Athan with Steve Jones, I’d do say 4 x 5 min efforts but he’d be doing 6, or I’d do 6 x 1000m hills but he would do 10. But it’s always a question of balance. When I got to the fells my intensity and quantity of training dropped significantly.’ Less is sometimes more.

So, rather than thinking he over-trained, he came back with someone who topped him in his training loads. Steve Jones is of course still the British Record holder for the marathon, with his 2-07-13 at the Chicago Marathon in 1985. I am not sure whether it was in recognition of his own hard training, or him just being realistic, but Steve Jones once famously said that he was, “one hamstring tear away from oblivion”.
Coming as he did from a track background, John Wild did more track training than Kenny Stuart ever did. He trained with some great athletes, and for a while joined a group under Harry Wilson (who was also Steve Ovett’s coach), as this excerpt shows:

‘The Tuesday evening sessions at Welwyn Garden City were fantastic and worth driving the 50+ miles to get there. There was a large number of athletes and we would do a particular effort session such as 8 x 3 minutes with 1-minute recovery. It was good to train with an athlete of the calibre of Tony Simmons, and on occasion we were joined by internationals such as Ian Stewart, who would turn up in his primrose TR6.’

Some more of the athletes he trained with, and the quality of the sessions he was doing are shown from this next quote from John:

He says now, ‘I’d also never been frightened of training hard and managed over the years to hold my own with anyone I trained with - including the Tucks, Tony Simmons, Dave Black and Roger Hackney (although Jonesy was bloody hard!) I also feel that with my years of running over 100 miles per week I had put plenty in the bank. I guess we would do one and a half mile repetition sessions at 4m 20s per mile pace. Certainly later, when I was training for the marathon, I was running accurate one and a half mile efforts in under 6m 30s.’