I have certainly written before that I think that training with other people – whether that is one training partner or as a group – is really crucial for me. I can’t imagine how many times I have finished a training session with one or more other people and said “there is no way I would have done that session as hard as that on my own”.
Group training works for me
Last week I was on a training camp, organised by 2:09 Events, where my coach – Nick Anderson from RunningWithUs – and a number of the other runners he coaches and with whom I train, were enjoying some warm sunshine, enjoying a lack of daily commute & office hours and enjoying the benefits of running in a group. In particular a couple of sessions with Tom and Hayley went really, really well and I know for a fact that I would have turned those runs into a steady effort if I had been left to my own devices.
I actually do as much as I can to be able to train with other people. This morning I drove across London to meet one of my training partners to get our long run done. That was nearly 2 hours in a car for a two and half hour run, but I knew that I wouldn’t run as well if I wasn’t motivated by running with someone.
I was rather excited to be invited to the launch of adidas’ 26rs – a community of runners all focused on the marathon, housed in a space below the London Marathon Store, near to Liverpool Street in central London. adidas have done a really nice job of setting up a smart space that I’m sure runners will appreciate, with three-stripe memorabilia on the walls including Jessica Ennis’ vest and Haile’s racing flats. There are changing facilities and lockers. And on the launch night there were a few inspirational runners there including Scott Overall, Aly Dixon and Liz Yelling. If adidas can infuse the space with the positive vibes they had on the night, I have no doubt it will be a success. But what would be considered a success…?
I am told that the idea is that runners can come and join in on guided runs and use the lockers and facilities in the basement space to keep their gear safe. And more than that, I think that the Virgin London Marathon, Sweatshop (who were commissioned to set up the London Marathon Store) and adidas, all hope that the 26rs will create connections between runners all aiming for the same thing – running the best marathon they can manage.
I imagine that part of the drive to set up the 26rs came from the (perhaps) surprising statistic that I read recently, that around only 10% of regular runners (as defined by the Active Britain survey) are members of running clubs. These people probably have less opportunities to run regularly with other people. And as I have said, I think that no matter how fast or slow you are, a group will help you run better. If you want evidence for that, all you have to do is look at the way the best marathon runners in the world train in Kenya and Ethiopia – there are huge groups that come together to run and track sessions where dozens of the best runners in the world are jostling for position on the inside line.
I think that adidas and the other stakeholders in the 26rs have their work cut out if they are to make this project a real success and not just end up paying lip service to the idea of creating a running community. There must be a critical mass of runners required to make the idea work: a group of six or eight runners – with a sub-3 hour experienced runner at one end and a novice aiming for a 5 hour finish at the other end – will stretch out to such a degree on a 26rs’ run that they might as well be running on their own. This is exactly what we saw on the launch night run, when, as we tried to negotiate the rush-hour commuters, traffic lights, taxis, bicycles and dug-up pavements on Liverpool Street, the group almost immediately splintered into pairs and mini-groups with some people getting lost and left behind and others charging ahead.
However if there are enough people, then the chances are good that there will be at least one training partner for each runner. And that will be a great resource for London’s marathon hopefuls!
My feeling is that the adidas 26rs is a great opportunity for marathon runners to find kindred spirits for a range of runs and especially for their long runs. And if you go down to Liverpool Street and go for a run with them, I’d love to know what you think. And maybe I’ll see you down there at some point (my locker is #22 by the way!)