NEW PR SEEMS ALL THE RAGE THESE DAYS

10.04.2017

Random and gratuitous selection of race medals, including a couple of podium placements.

Well, at least one of my running friends thinks so. More on that in a moment.

First, let’s get clear on the whole ‘PR’ thing.

There is the PR (Personal Record) and the PB (Personal Best). For some, they are the same thing. Personally, I look at one (PR) as the best you have EVER done no asterisks for age or heat or terrain, or wind or whatever. The other comes conditions. I’ve started keeping that kind of statistic for myself. When you are at the pinnacle of performance you are on a kind of plateau of expectations. However, as you age (for instance), you may not be able to reasonably compare current performance with earlier performance (like something you did 20 years ago). I know people (me)who keep Five Year PB stats. I use the age divisions reported by most races.

When they start, most people tend to get better for as long as five years. They may then plateau, scoring similar results over a reasonably long period. Eventually, there comes a time when performances begin to decline and the pure ‘bests’ no longer happen. After that, the only way to get a career record is to run some distance you have never done before! (Which is how I have a 50K record set 3-4 years ago!)

It has also come to mind that there is a difference between winning or placing and running fast. You can score a PB and be last (well, in theory). If we look at the true front end of big races, it is shocking to realize that the fastest American marathoner (Ryan Hall) came fourth (Boston) while recording a 2:04 result. Then, look at “Meb” who truly knows how to race and win. His best times are literally minutes behind Hall, but he has the gold medals to show he knows how to be at the front when it counts. The same applies to us lesser lights, far back from the pointy end of any given race. The hard part for age group runners, especially in larger non-local races, is just knowing WHO you are racing. I mean, you can’t really apply your Meb-like wily race strategy if you don’t know who you are actually racing!

Getting back to the PR/PB discussion, it turns out there IS another way to get a PR (other than running some distance you’ve never done before) one that is not for the faint of heart. Not many of us can claim that after years of running, and running pretty well, that we are running faster than ever, especially those who have truly joined the ranks of the Seasoned Athlete.

Walter – For the Win! Forever Young 8K (2017)

I, and a good many others, can claim stellar events or even years as we go along. But, that is definitely a relative term and kind of an exception to the rule. That is why I talked about the Five Year PB. In my own case, my best running was about 3-4 years after I started and all my PR results came when I was 43-44 years of age. There were moments after that when I had a good race, but it took a bunch of years before I had one of those remarkable periods where everything was really good. It was leading up to and during the year I was 65. I had some excitingly (for me) good times, but they were totally ‘relative’. My best marathon in that 18 months or so, was my third best raw time and second best age graded, but far from the time of my best race. In fact, almost an hour slower in real time. The race was more than 20 years after the first and best. Still, it was a great year or so and in relative terms, good on almost any scale you want to use other than pure, raw results.

As I said, that just happens to be my story. I’m sure it isn’t unique. I know exactly why it happened. I worked my butt off and didn’t get injured. But, it still had that asterisk signifying “Best in Years”.

A few weeks back, I wrote a blog piece entitled “Where There’s a Will……………..”. It wound up being the second or third most popular piece ever published here. Apparently, it hit a chord with the ‘Seasoned Athlete’ readership. It was about fellow Forerunners clinic runner and group leader, Walter Downey. What follows is about the continuing adventures of ‘our Walter’, so I’m not going to reproduce all the background from the first post. If you want to know, just follow the link and it will take you right there.

Captured live while running through Forerunners Cheer Zone (Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon)

Walter’s very good year began in November of 2016 and has continued unabated right up to this past Sunday. The original story was that Walter was getting podium finishes in every race he contested, starting with an Age Group third place in the Fall Classic Half marathon (November 2016). As of this past Sunday, the string has expanded to 10 for 10, with six firsts, three seconds and one third.

We all enjoy a podium finish (First, Second or Third), but Walter started getting mostly Firsts. About a month ago, he won outright at the Forever Young 8K, while setting an age group and event record.

As an aside, the Forever Young 8K is a unique event for runners and walkers who are 55 Plus!

This past Sunday, he set another age group record at the inaugural North Van Run 5K. OK, I’ve had one of those myself last year. If you win your age group in the inaugural race, you have to get the record. In my case, it lasted 365 days and was then crushed. In Walter’s case, he laid down a fine time of 18:39 and placed 17th OA, even though he turned 56 in May and this race uses a 10 year age group (50-59).

Hayward Field, Eugene OR. Finishing the Eugene Marathon (2017) Photo courtesy of Michael Carson.

So, here is the magic. Walter has produced a pure career best at every distance he has run in the past year including 5K, 8K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon. Does that mean he is done? No, not necessarily. I know he has five other races lined up for 2017, so he may well improve some of those times that are current lifetime bests. I have it on good authority (he told me) that he still wants to do better yet. If he sticks with the plan, he will run 14 races in 2017. That is a lot, but maybe not so bad if you consider some of the shorter races as part of the training and build for the longer ones.

Dedication and determination seem to be the driving forces. Hard work can achieve amazing things. Walter went from being a competent but, by his own assessment,  lazy runner, compared to the ‘running machine’ we see at present. He was having fun and was more or less satisfied with what he was doing, but in his heart, he knew he could do better.

Coming off an injury unrelated to running (but which kept him FROM running), Walter started eating better (up to six times a day, but fewer carbs, more protein and fewer calories), and losing weight (28lb) as well as running farther (75km/week vs 40km/week), harder and smarter (from 3 times to 5 runs per week with targeted workouts, including a couple of gym sessions to work on strength). His workouts always have purpose, something we can’t always claim. He pushed his own limits and standards. We share a coach, Carey Nelson, who is very thoughtful about the programs he offers his runners and even though we may all do the prescribed runs and drills, there is still the degree of commitment that can be variable. Walter put the hammer down and pushed toward his own potential. He tells me that a lot of people have noticed his improvement and want his ‘secret’. Disappointingly for some (me?), the secret is pretty much self-discipline and hard work.

Running volume is hardly the only measure of a strong program, but if you are running marathons, volume does count re endurance. As already noted, Walter went from average weekly distance of 40km up to about 75km. Distance is one thing, but the other side of it is intensity. Not getting the two confused is the smart part. We are all just one awkward step from an acute injury, but all things staying even, I am expecting to see even more from Walter over the next several months. I’m pretty sure Walter is too!

In case you want to keep track of what he has done and how it goes over the next while, here is the record starting with the Fall Classic Half Marathon (2016). Note, all placings are for M55-59 or M50-59.

2016

Nov     Fall Classic Half Marathon    1:36:47      3rd

2017

Mar     Pride Run Phoenix Half         1:31:42       1st

May     Eugene Marathon                  3:14:37       2nd    PR

Jun      North Olympic Trail Half       1:32:18       1st

Jun      Scotiabank Half Marathon     1:32:25      2nd

Jul       Vancouver Pride Run 10K          39:09     1st      PR

Aug     Squamish Days 8K                    31:26       1st      PR

Aug     America’s Finest City Half       1:29:51      2nd    PR

Sept     Forever Young 8K                 31:50       1st      1st OA, Event Record

Sept     North Van Run 5K                  18:31       1st      PR  AG Record

Berlin Marathon (2016) Finisher Medal

Walter has another five events still to run in 2017: two 10Ks (Vancouver Turkey Trot and Fall Classic 10K), one 5K (Palm Springs Pride Run), one Half (Joshua Tree Half Marathon) and one Marathon (California International Marathon). Sounds like there may need to be another update in December or January! Walter has also run four of the six marathon majors (New York, Boston, Chicago and Berlin) and as I write this blog piece is waiting to hear if he will be successful at his attempt to run London next Spring.

Run on Young Walter!  Run on!

 

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