Show me the evidence

Belief vs. empirical evidence – it’s a bit like a battle between love or magic vs. science or logic. The romantic in me always wants to believe that there is a magic and an art to running, but the truth is, I believe that running is a direct input-output relationship.

If you train and prepare well, you will get the result you want. If you don’t, you won’t.

So when I announced to my coach that after tackling three ultra marathons in three months, culminating in a 130 mile three-day stage race at the end of August, I would like to start a 15 week programme to race a marathon in Italy in December, I thought that he would simply tell me that it wasn’t possible, that I was being foolish.

Instead, he double-bluffed me. He said that me racing a marathon in December would be possible, but he would want to see something before we seriously contemplated the idea…


So I have a target, which is not the one I thought I might have. Now I have to qualify for my own challenge, by running at least one half marathon personal best, between the end of the epic-ultra and the middle of November. If I can do that, then perhaps the marathon is a ‘go-er’.

Belief… or naivety

But many runners don’t have a coach who is used to greedy athletes wanting to revisit the sticky honey pot of racing time and time again. And I was reminded of this by a friend who told me of a group of new runners, training for a 10km road race, who had decided – for what reason I don’t know – that they were going to try to run sub-35 minute times on their debut.

I am not talking about seasoned 1500m, 3000m or 5000m track athletes here, going for their first road race. No, these are real newbies – people who have never really been very active or trained consistently. The fact is that they are completely naive and they have picked up the idea that 35 minutes is a good target from goodness knows where. They haven’t even tested themselves – no track sessions, no ParkRuns…

The truth is, maybe I am the one who needs to rethink things – maybe I set limiters on myself and everyone I come in contact with through running, because I don’t believe in magic. I believe in evidence. But then again, maybe a little evidence is always a good thing. What do you think?


  1. I think you’re spot on. While I firmly believe that the person you were yesterday is not the person you will be tomorrow, if you’re going to shoot for goals, they must have some basis in reality.

    Even if they are adjusted as you move through a training program, creating realistic but still stretching goals is much more important (and motivating) than pie in the sky ideals.

  2. Good post Simon.

    Definitely agree, there’s no magic formula to PB’s, you need to put the miles in. Equally the training times you base your race time must be ‘current’. It’s no good looking at a Park Run time from 9 months ago if you’ve been injured and had several weeks out.

    Most elites have an excellent idea of their likely finish time before the race starts (although whether they share it publically is another matter!). How many times in interviews after races do you hear them say ‘I knew i was in PB shape’ or ‘I’ve been suffering from a virus so I knew I’d struggle’.

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