Short sprint – Natural talent

I met Rob at Bournemouth parkrun where he was always up the front threatening to break 18-minutes. He did it a few months later and started doing longer races the following year. He broke three hours in his second marathon.

As I got to know him he explained he’d watched the London Olympics and been inspired by Mo Farah’s 5,000 and 10,000m gold medal double and decided to take up running. I’m sure he was always fit and trim just not a committed runner. His first parkrun in late 2013 came in at 18:55 which is only a couple of seconds slower than my Personal Best set on the flats of Poole parkrun.

He’s a perfect example of natural talent.

We lost touch for a few years and I imagine he was working hard through the Covid crisis in his job as a GP. Six weeks ago he began running regularly again. Most of his runs have been somewhere around 8 minute miling, five times per week usually totalling 4-5 hours of training and covering 35-40 miles, last week was a big one of 45 miles. Once a week there’s usually some kind of workout. One week it was a fast-finishing long run, another was a 5-mile tempo at 6:50 pace, another mile repeats at 6:40 pace and another 200s at 6:00-6:20/mile. It’s a good mix of training but not been especially fast.

Yesterday his latest session popped up on my Strava – 5x1km with 3-mins rest. The splits were 3:41, 3:36, 3:37, 3:39, 3:33 – all around 5:50/mile. I hadn’t seen him go near that pace in any of the previous weeks. This is natural talent for distance running in action. Those splits are quicker than I could run one 800m all-out after training daily for four months, let alone run for five back-to-back 1K efforts.

I don’t say this out of envy, more amazement at how easy running is for people with natural talent at it. It’s taken me a long time to realise, I’m much better suited to the shorter distances which is why I decided to head back to middle-distance and the 800m. Even so I also know you have to build aerobically to improve at all distances. Runners like Rob have naturally high aerobic capacities.

The 5x1km with 3-mins rest used to be my go-to workout. When I was running my best at parkrun, I was beginning to get down to the numbers Rob is achieving there. That’s what happens when you train effectively, you can begin to challenge and maybe even surpass those with natural talent.

UPDATE: A couple of weeks after this post appeared, I logged on to Strava on the Sunday afternoon to find Rob had run a local 10K in 38-mins off nine weeks of training. He’d averaged 35 miles per week and 4-5 hours training. This only goes to underlines how natural talent can help you reach quick times when you start running.

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