Recently the BBC ran an article on Emer McKee, who’s set a 5,000m world record for a twelve year old with a time of 16min40. She’s quoted as saying “Normally I’m just running as fast as I can and just waiting for it to be over,” which is pretty much how any all-out 5K or parkrun should feel.
Emer started at parkrun when she was nine and joined a local running club, Willowfield in East Belfast, and has been improving ever since, competing in a range of events from 60 metres up to parkrun but also including long jump and cross-country.
Three points I want to highlight from her story:
- As a member of a running club, she is getting decent structured coaching and sessions that enable her to make progress. Although the headline from the article implies she “runs as fast as she can” this refers to her races. It doesn’t necessarily apply to her training. Just going out and running the fastest you can every day in training will bring short term results but eventually you’ll see the gains stop.
- It’s taken her three years to reach this stage. She began running parkrun in 2017 and quickly made good progress twenty-nine minutes down to twenty-one by year end. Since then it has taken three years of training to build on that and get down to a sub-17 time.
- Being part of a club limits the amount of racing she does and gives time for training to develop. While she’s a regular parkrunner, unlike typical adult runners, the rest of her year is not spent entering 10Ks, half marathons and marathons. The club events she does are all completed within twenty minutes (usually significantly less) and therefore don’t require much recovery. By contrast, adults regularly enter distance races that require more recovery and therefore cut into their ability to train to improve.
The great thing about being twelve years old is she’s got her whole running career ahead of her. She turns up to her club and the coach has already decided what the session is and how it will help her (along with her clubmates) to improve. For the most part, her running priorities are defined by the club’s season.
The coaching of juniors is usually very good because the focus is on developing them, through a structured approach to training, for when they are adults. This approach is one I try to replicate for adults attending my Big Red Running sessions. Sessions build on previous weeks to enable progress in the long-term. If you would like to come to my session then please do. Check the homepage for details and if you have any questions by all means contact me for further info.