Time to go harder

What’s not to like about the City to Surf?

From the excitement of the mass start to running through some of Sydney’s most iconic streets and then the chance to swap stories over a coffee down at the beach afterwards, it’s the biggest running party of the year.

...if you want to have physical improvement you have got to do speed work and to do that you’ve got to go hard.

Last weekend was only my second year, which makes me a baby in C2S terms – especially compared to the genial bloke with whom I exchanged a few words on Heartbreak Hill. He was on his 42nd.

Every one of the 69,000 finishers would have had a target in their own mind. For many it would have been just to finish, for others it would have been to run all the way, while others would have had a specific time in mind.

I trimmed about five minutes from last year’s time, which I was pretty happy with, although it was slower than I hoped for and still more than six minutes off the magic one-hour mark.

As usual, my training, if it can be dignified with that name, was pretty hit and miss, generally consisting of getting out for a run whenever possible and trying to slot in a longer run of 20km+ on the weekends when life and work allowed. It works pretty well for general fitness and keeping the weight off but if I’m ever going to be a sub-60m C2S runner, I know I’m going to have to be a little more structured about my training.

So, with an eye on August 11, 2013, I asked personal trainer Michael Berry what I needed to do to have a shot at a really decent C2S time.

And, in the nicest possible way, Michael said I needed to work a harder (I knew there was going to be a catch).

“The thing most people miss out on is being able to train at a high intensity,” he said. “It requires that little bit of push. Cruising along and jogging is wonderful – it breaks down stress and burns up some calories, you can see the sights, lift your mood and get some positive hormones going but if you want to have physical improvement you have got to do speed work and to do that you’ve got to go hard.”

A combination of types of speed work is important so your body doesn’t get too adapted to one particular method.

“You can mix it up with short distance intervals and then you might do fast continuous work where you are moving for say five minutes at a time,” said Michael. “Then the next day you might get onto a different surface, doing some beach sprints, which takes a lot more strength in the legs.”

And is it too early to start thinking about next year’s City 2 Surf? Apparently not.

The earlier the better, according to Michael, but it’s also good to slot in a few other events at regular intervals as well to create a “running lifestyle”. (Check here for some inspiration) It also keeps up the motivation and also lets you practise your race-day routine.

Of course, speed work is just one part of a focused training program, long runs, rest days are also important but in general I reckon it’s time to get a bit more scientific about my training.

If I can clock a C2S finish with a “5” in it before I’m too much older, it’ll all be worth it.

How was your City 2 Surf? Did you feel you’d done enough training? Do you do speed work regularly or are you never going to be that organised?