I think every runner experiences the plateau, whether they run on or off-road. You get to that point where you stop seeing improvements. The hills don’t get any easier, your pace hovers around the same point and you can never beat those same people you always see at races.
It just doesn’t make any sense does it? You are training as much as you always have, getting out at least a couple of times a week to run around your local countryside. You eat well and try to do all the right stretches before and after running. So why don’t you continue to improve?
It seems so obvious looking back, but for me this was a bit of a eureka moment. How can you expect to up your performance if you don’t also up your training? It sounds so simple when it’s written in front of you but it took me a while to actually understand this. I would turn up at fell races and see the same familiar faces. Of those faces I instantly knew who would leave me for dust and who I could probably sneak ahead of. Trying to catch those top 5 runners at the front of the pack seemed an impossibility. To my mind my training had taken me as far as I could get, a fairly average middle of the pack finisher. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this at all, but personally I always wanted more.
I think training more with other people turned on the lightbulb in my mind by just listening to their viewpoints on running and training. Hearing what others did really made me look at my own running. If you go out and run the same routes at the same pace every week, how will you improve? Think about it, how will this make you finally get up that hill without walking or maintain a good pace over flat ground?
Over the last year or so all my race times seem to have gotten faster, although at the time I didn’t realise it was happening. I’ve even managed to acquire a little collection of silverware which I never thought was possible (check out my results page). The main thing that I have changed in my training is incorporating a dedicated hill session into my routine. Now don’t get me wrong, I am no role model for training and honestly only run a couple of times a week. However, adding a dedicated 30-45 min hill session over winter and into spring has really given me that extra power to get around these races and push myself further. Obviously I also have another year of fell running experience under my belt which will also have helped somewhat.
Now I turn up to races and see those same familiar faces, and yes some of those faces will still beat me, but there are now a fair few who I have since overtaken and others who I hope to be hot on the heels of.
For me the key is variety:
- Run different routes over different distances. If you don’t have a lot of choice because of where you live, run your usual route backwards so the hills come at different stages
- Go out with someone of a quicker pace which will encourage you not to just plod around at a leisurely jog
- Incorporate some hill and speed sessions, it’s amazing what a weekly 30-45 minute session can achieve
- Practise over different terrains as most races are quite varied
- Try and do a bit of strength and conditioning at home if you can, strong core and glutes are always a boost to running
Let me know what tips you have. Happy running x