Running Writing ©
No. 14    September 1998
previous issuehomenext issue


Running Fast  
Injury Free  
From Tuggie Athlete Number 44

As this is my first message as President of SCTAC I should try to say something inspirational but don't be surprised if it comes out sounding irrational instead.

I confess that I probably don't take my position seriously enough and feel a bit like Zafod Beeblebrox of "Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy" : Merely a buffoon figurehead put there to keep the media entertained while the real leaders operate secretly behind the scenes. And it is these unsung heroes who really keep the club running (to coin a phrase). My hat is raised to Greg Gilbert, Alan Bishop, Lyn Button, Ted Harrison, Ewen Thompson and Michael Ward-Pearson. It is there sterling efforts that make our club as successful as it is.

My first love in athletics is the race. Despite my advancing years I still love to get out there and mix it with the youngsters, striving to remain competitive as long as I possibly can. Our club is full of such characters of varying levels of ability but all with that unquenchable urge to do the best that we possibly can. We may be a bit short on real star performers (though we do indeed have a few of those), but we make up for it with this sheer determination to do the best we can. We all should be using this enthusiasm to encourage new members to join us and to inspire existing members to continue with us.

This is what makes ours a great club. We are a very good athletics club, but it is my ambition to steer it towards becoming a better social club as well. Unfortunately, we on the committee tend to be an unimaginative lot and would really appreciate input from you. Your constructive ideas on improving our social image would be greatly appreciated. You are welcome to come to the regular club meeting, held the third Monday of each month, to express them.

Perhaps we could arrange group attendances at movies or shows, taking advantage of the cheaper rates for group bookings, or maybe a Sunday BBQ at Pine Island where we could do something different like a game of Touch. It would be good to get a response from some of you on these and other ideas.

The Winter season is in full swing and we are getting a good turn out of members at almost every event. Our Juniors are always competitive; doing very well against the other clubs. We are struggling at the moment with our open women's team though. Fiona and Rosemary do a fantastic job, but we definitely need to recruit a few more girls in the 20 to 35 age group to take the pressure off them. We have been able to field teams through the inclusion of juniors in some cases, and by girls, like Amanda Ozolins, who have performed above the call of duty to ensure that we had enough to earn points. Our senior men are largely old crocks like myself who battle on gamely, watching the more agile runners from other clubs receding into the distance ahead of us. But these old crocks still managed to take the Summer Series men's team title so they can't write us off yet.

I believe that Athletics is losing members to the more with-it sports like Triathlon. It is a time when we should be looking at ways to make our sport more with-it as well. It is a time when we all must apply our collective minds to the problem. We may have to depart from traditional methods and venture into uncharted territory to do this. We could start by looking at what makes a sport popular and applying it to our own.

Success for the rest of the winter.

Gordon Nightingale
July 11 - 1998

Select for Large Image

young gordon
Club President Gordon Nightingale some years back at the Anzac Relays [59k]

steeplechaser craig core
Craig Core steeples to second place in the 98 Bilga Bash [23k]

sharing a joke with nicole carroll
Sharing a joke prior to the start of the 98 Rosemary Longstaff Trophy race [46k]

happy birthday erin sutcliffe
Happy 15th for Erin at the 1998 Bilga Bash cross country race [39k]


A new book by Gordon Pirie
reviewed by RW's editor

Any aficionado of world class running will have heard about the exciting days of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The Melbourne and Rome Olympic Games. Names such as Elliott, Kuts, Snell, Iharos, Santee and Pirie come to mind. A new book by the late Gordon Pirie is now available (Edited by John S Gilbody) - "Running Fast and Injury Free".

The book makes for fascinating reading. Gordon Pirie is a three-time Olympian who won silver in the 5,000 metres behind Vladimir Kuts in the 1956 Melbourne Games. He also set five official world records and many more unofficial world bests and "trained very hard for 45 years and only suffered two or three injuries which stopped me from training."

I found the whole book to be entertaining, educational and at times controversial. The training that Pirie undertook to transform himself from a good club runner who couldn’t sprint to a world-class athlete with a devastating finish is amazing. It is interesting that his world record from 1956 of 13:36.8 (on a cinders track) is a time superior to the personal bests of most members of Australia’s 1998 team for the World Cross Country Championships.

In the book, Gordon Pirie outlines his 'laws of running’ and continues with chapters addressing subjects such as 'Why Athletes Fail’, 'Injuries, Technique and Shoes’, 'Training’, 'Weight Training’ and 'Diet and Vitamins’. The chapter on 'Injuries, Technique and Shoes’ I found to be particularly absorbing from a personal perspective. In the group that I help coach we spend a good deal of time teaching athletes 'how to run’. To do this, we watch them running and incorporate various drills, exercises and hill running into their training so they can learn the running form of a world-class middle distance athlete. I must say that I don’t agree entirely with Pirie’s model of good running form, however it is interesting the importance that he gives to running form and it’s relevance to injury-free and successful running.

Below are some excerpts from the book. I hope to include some more in future issues of Running Writing. In conclusion, I would recommend the book to all runners - from the absolute beginner to the emerging national-class athlete.

Pirie on Why Athletes Fail: "Because runners always demonstrate a determination and singleness of purpose rarely encountered in people involved in other sports, they tend to overdo their training when rest is called for (that is, relative rest, not necessarily zero activity). The generally accepted notion is: 'The harder I train, the faster I will run'. This is not necessarily true. There is nothing wrong with training very hard for a time even right to the limit - then backing off and having a period of rest. Hard training is very important; but so is rest. Training hard when fatigued is asking for frustration, disappointment, and possibly injury or illness.

A training plan is very important, but it should be infinitely flexible! Too zealous an adherence to a plan can leave a runner flat on his back. In May 1981, I watched Grete Waitz training at Bislet Stadium in Oslo two or three days after a hard race. Her legs were still stiff and sore from the stress of the race, so her training (300-metre sprints) was going badly. I wrote to Arne Haukvik, the Oslo promoter, following that session to ask him to warn Grete that she would soon be injured if she pursued this course of training. Sure enough, Grete suffered a serious foot injury a few weeks later, which caused her to drop out of her world record attempt at 5,000 metres. She lost the rest of the season."

Pirie on Training: "It is important to remember that when you run your race simulations, you must do so in a less stressful manner than when actually racing. Take it easy and forget about sprinting the last lap; just run along at a comfortable pace. The object is to accustom your body and your mind to running the distance. My favourite runs were 2 miles in 8:40 to 9 minutes, four miles in 18:30-19:30, and three miles in 13:30-13:35. I liked to finish these runs quickly, with a last lap of about 60 or 61 seconds, but not flat-out (I have done 53.8 seconds for the last 440 yards of a 5,000m race).

You can do the same kind of running, below your maximum ability, over distances ranging from 3,000 metres up to 10,000 metres, although I am sure that very few runners can do the type and volume of very fast running I was doing in the 1950s. Initially, you will have to settle for running well within your capabilities with times a little more conservative.

But how can you find your particular level? How do you know how fast to run these fast stretches? You have to seek out an experienced coach to match your training schedule to your ability at any particular moment. A runner cannot do this himself very easily. If you are a coach, you must make sure that you are very careful to gauge the abilities of your athletes correctly. It is important that you do not demand more than the athlete is able to reasonably deliver, whilst still being able to recover for a similar session the next day. I like to set a target time my athletes can easily reach then they always succeed!

I deal with about 100 different facets of training when trying to produce champion runners. Most coaches I know understand about 20 of these 100 facets, some coaches know 45 or 50, and I have known one or two who know all 100 facets of the art. The point I am making is that: (1) there is no detail of your life or your training which is too minor to be considered in relation to your training schedule; and (2) it is crucial to find yourself as good a coach as possible, because it is not possible to take guidance solely from a piece of paper (like the training schedules you frequently see published in magazines, and the schedules of my own that I have cited here). You really need a mentor to save you from making the 1,001 mistakes that can be made in training and racing. A good doctor is also important (see Chapter Six on diet and vitamins)."

Ordering Details:
'Running Fast and Injury Free' is a simply produced work with no pictures.
Copies are available from: Dr John S Gilbody, One Rookswood Close, Hook, Hampshire RG27 9EU [ENGLAND]".

For US dollar orders, please send a check for $25 (this price includes airmail postage). For Australia and New Zealand: Aus$40.00 (Australian cheques accepted!) all-inclusive price including airmail postage. I'm sorry for the price, but the exchange rate is currently Aus$2.56 = UK£1.00 !

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to e-mail me. Note that this is NOT a commercial venture - the photocopying involved, together with card and ring-binder, costs more than the sale price. Also, the book took me five years to produce. However, I promised Gordon before he died that I would publish the book, and so I have!

John S Gilbody (25 July 1998)
One Rookswood Close
Hampshire RG27 9EU
Fax: +44 (0) 1256 760 100
Gordon's book "Running Fast and Injury Free" is available free online at the above website!


Copyright © 1997 - 2009