October 2000

Coach's Column (from Max)

"Debbie, Merlene and Me"

In the first year when I returned to road racing, after a gap of 28 years, I had intended just to do the London marathon and then retire again. When I read in the following monthís Running Magazine, however, that I had been beaten by two WALKERS, I decided that I couldnít go to my grave with that humiliation fresh in my (late) mind.

Having had some interest in Athletics from the time of the Berlin Olympics in 1936, I had long known that the marathon is 26 miles 385 yards, that there is a 50km walk in the Olympic Games and that the medallists in that take almost as long to cover that distance as I had taken, 3:49:57, in London. But I hadnít translated the walk into just over 31 miles, nor the marathon distance into a little over 42k. It was to be my fifth marathon, the following yearís 3:05:32 in Horsforth, before I ran it in under the time - and even then by a few seconds only - that the Olympic 50km walkers go through the marathon distance.

Another three years later, though, with 2:58:00, 3:00:22 and 3:02:28 in the Londons, I felt ready to take on The World. In my age-group, you understand. I was at the wrong end of the M55 category for the WAVA Championships in 1985, but I decided to go to Rome then, on a recce as it were, so that I would be the better prepared for the Games two years later in Melbourne, Australia, when I would be one of the young M60s. 1000 miles away in Italy seemed a long way to go just for the one race, so I entered the (track) 10000m on the first Sunday, the 5000 on the Tuesday and then the marathon on the final Sunday. I had met M55 Ron Franklin the previous year at the European Vets Championships in Brighton - he had been a GBR-vested sub-2:30 marathon runner in his younger days - and I supposed that he would figure well up in the 10000. "No", he said, "Derek Turnbull is back running again [after having lost an argument with one of his tractors] and heís here".

I had never heard of New Zealand sheep-farmer Turnbull before, but I was soon to meet him. A very pleasant, amiable Kiwi off the track, but a demon on it. Six months older than I (!), he was to win the M55 gold medals in the marathon, the 10k X-Country and the 10000, the 5000 and the 1500 on the track. He won "only" the silver in the 800m, losing out in a photofinish in 2:12, a time I had only bettered once in my University days. By way of excuse, I just mention that I had never run a 6 miles on a track, my marathon so-called "training" involved no speed work - apart from intervals for 90 minutes refereeing every Sunday in the soccer season - and I had not trained for the 5000 or the 10000 in Rome either. So I was totally unprepared to be lapped FIVE TIMES by Derek in the 10000 and twice in the 5000. He even lapped an Irishman in the 1500 !

My second humiliation on my return to running - there were a couple in my young days also, but let that pass for now - was complete when Derek finished over half an hour ahead of me in my prime event, the marathon. He ran 2:42 on a hot day over the unyielding Rome roads, an average of 6:10 per mile, a rate I could only match, with difficulty, for one mile, let alone 26 of them in succession. Something Had To Be Done.

When I had recovered from the shock of Derek Turnbull, there were three months to go until the Leeds marathon. I decided to concentrate on running as fast as I could in training for as long as I could, provided it was under 7-minute miles. Over the next two months I ran nothing but 4 miles per session, averaged almost 5 outings of that per week, reduced my rate from 7:00 to 6:30 per mile. So far, so good, because I always run at least 15 seconds per mile faster in a marathon than I do my solitary training miles. With just three weeks to go before the marathon, I reverted to my former regime of well over twice the distance per week and at an average of 7:15 per mile.

In the Leeds marathon, everything went well for the first 4 miles. I reached that marker in 26 minutes, 6:30 miling, 2:50 pace. It was the remaining 22 miles which were more of a problem. I ran my slowest overall and second half marathon on a cool day since that first London four years previously. That (failed) "Match Derek Turnbull" marathon training programme was at my fastest rate over 3 months before or since and my lowest mileage, 23.8 per week, until 1998 (when I had greater priority calls on my time).

When the first edition of the WAVA Age-Graded Tables was published in 1989, I was not surprised to note that Derekís M55 and, by then, his M60 times also were the 100% "Standards", there or thereabouts, right through from 800m to the marathon. Born in December 1926, in 1993 he demolished the M65 World Records from 800m upwards, including a 2:41:57 marathon in London. Sure enough, when the second edition of the Tables was published in 1994, Derekís M65 times are all in there. Or thereabouts.

Thatís all by way of introducing the Good News and the Bad News about the WAVA Age-Graded Tables. The good bit first. Get hold of the pages detailing the Standard times for both the Track and the LDR (Long Distance Running) for your gender - pages 18 and 24 for women, 16 and 22 for men - and youíll find all Derek Turnbullís times either on the M65 line or the M66. Astonishingly, his WR marathon time is his "slowest" of the lot relatively, so that astounding run in London, the only M65 time under 2:50 of which I am aware, is nearer to the M67 line than it is to the M66.

Thatís another way of saying two things. One is that you can find out what time you are fit enough to run, say, a ten-miler, a half-marathon or a marathon by simply finding where the nearest to your recent 10k time happens to come in the Tables and then reading across that particular line. Or vice versa, if you have a 10 mile or marathon time and want to know what to aim for in an upcoming 10k. It may be on the OC line if you are an Olympic Champion, 5-10 years older than your age if you are a Vet and an age-group world-record holder, x years older if ..... well, thereís no need to embarrass the faster Club members by doing the algebra thing and finding "x", but I need only say
that itís greater than 10 ! Or you can go the long way round by working out the percentage your recent done time is of the Tablesí time for your actual age and then dividing that into the time for your age for the other races which you are contemplating running.

The other thing it says is of comfort to the younger folk in the Age-Graded Club Championship. Allan Meddings, the WAVA 100 and 200m World Champion whenever he runs in them, always wins the Birchfield Harriers version. The younger Vets in the Club there complain that the Standards are easier the older one gets, but actually they are tougher. The fact is that Allan is even better than it seems from the simple percentage calculation. Perhaps thatís because the Warwickshire FA doesnít retire its soccer referees at the age of 64, as the West Riding Association does, so Allan, now aged 72, still
does his interval training during the winter.

I wrote in Coachís Column four years ago that when Iím racing hot I have consistently returned times in the age-graded range of 83% to 87%, all the way from one mile right up to 50 miles. That is about to change. Not because Iím finding time for only half the amount of training since I ran 87.3% in my under-my-age-in-minutes-10-miler in Thirsk two years ago, but because of Haile Gebrselassie, Merlene Ottey, Linford Christie and Debbie Brill.

The new, third edition of the WAVA Tables is due out this year and they have done to the 1994 edition what those two elderly sprinters, Trinidadian 400m runner Ralph Romain - 54.34 at the age of 61 (!!) - and Derek Turnbull did to the 1989 Tables. Theyíve gone so far beyond what was then the single-age world record that the compilers of the new edition will be unable to ignore them. It was one thing not to recognize Flo-Joís 10.49 100m WR when all the other events apart from her semi- and final in the US Olympic Trials that day in 1988 had following winds of over 4m/s, but the official recording for her races was 0.0m/s. But thereís not a lot one can do but accept Debbie
Brillís 1.76 high jump in Gateshead at the age of 46, a whopping 104.1% age-graded and 21centimetres - 8 inches in old money - higher than the silver medallist. And in case youíve never heard of or have forgotten who Debbie Brill is, she is the Canadian who won the Commonwealth Games high jump in Edmonton in 1982 with the first major success for the Fosbury Flop, two years before the eponymous Dick won in the LA84 Olympics with it. A trick for clearing the bar based on the sound mechanical engineering principle of never having to get oneís centre of gravity above it, it should really be known
as the Brill Bend. If not the Brilliant Brill Bend !

This is the Bad News. And not just for M40 men and W35 women sprinting and high jumping Vets, either. Thatís because, for them to be valid for comparability in multi-events such as the heptathlon and the decathlon - which is why the Tables were developed in the first place - there has to be consistency within one table both down and across, between the tables and between those for same events for each gender. So the 2% reduction in the Open Class menís 5000m WR since 1994 and which Christie also recorded with that famous show-off to the young Turks he coaches when he ran 6.58
for 60m - the one which resulted in so much soft tissue damage to old Grandpa that he fell foul of the Nandrolone Police to the tune of 100 times over albeit the absurdly low limit ! - the 3% reduction in the single-age Standards which Ottey achieved in her 100m semi-final in the Atlanta Olympics and Brillís 4% will run right through the 22 pages of the 2000 Edition of the Age-Graded Tables.

Whatever your personal AG expectation may have been since I brought the second edition back from Eugene, Oregon where they were unveiled in 1994, I reckon we shall all be three percentage points worse off when the third edition is published. 50 metres Indoors to 100 kilometres Outdoors, the hurdles and the steeple, all the field events. So those of us on the borderline will sink from International down to National Class, or down to Regional Class, or down to Local Class. Or Down and Out. Aaaargh !

e-mail Postscript: Before I forget, I was down in Eugene yesterday chatting with Suzy Hess, the Administrative, i.e. the Actual Editor of National Masters' News. I learn that the Third Edition of the WAVA Age-Graded Tables will be published next year - i.e. 2001, the First in the New Millennium - not this year, the last of the Old.