Beginners Group Jan/Feb 2015 Report

Beginners Group Jan/Feb 2015 Diary / Report by Mick Wall (and Andy Davies)

After the success of the first Striders beginners course last autumn (report by Alastair Lawson, 31kb Word Doc), the website had quite a number of enquiries regarding the next installment.  As we had almost 10 on the reserve list we decided to advertise the 8 week course directly after the Percy Pud and to start at New Years Resolution time; first Monday in January.

We quickly had 20 suitable candidates that seemed to fit the bill, the sort of people that we were looking for.  People who could currently run a 5k Parkrun but needed help getting to 10k and ultimately to be able to join the main Striders training nights.

In the process of vetting people when they applied we had some runners that we directed straight to the main nights as their 5k and 10k times suggested that all they needed was some confidence and encouragement to go straight to a main training night.

Having completed his Run Leadership course Andy Davies put himself forward as leader of the 8 week course and I his lacky (ie email and organisation).  Monday nights, 7pm, Hillsborough Leisure centre.

Week 1

How many would actually turn, would anyone?  We needn’t have worried as we had 13 enthusiast beginners arrive on week 1.  We started off in Hillsborough Park with Andy’s version of speed dating/running where we had everyone running in pairs talking about their running as we went along, then after a minute or so we swapped partners.  This got everyone talking to each other from the off and settle some nerves, including ours.  The pairing up during the warmup became a weekly ritual.

We then decided to try and gauge their fitness and pace and provide a benchmark that we could go back to in future weeks.  The first part of Hillsborough Parkrun course can complete a nice 800m loop so we sent everyone off a timed loop.  I ran out front and kept the pace high if I felt anyone on my shoulder.  I was stunned that down the back straight I kept getting faster and people were still following me.  In the end we had the fastest come in at 3:21(6:45 min/mile pace) and the final runner came in at 5:09 (10:22min/mile).  At first we didn’t quite realise it, but we had vast difference in ability in the group.

Once the time trial was over and they had a little rest we took them on run heading towards Oughtibridge, a usual route of Hillsborough Wednesday nights.  If we didn’t realise earlier we had a mixed group, it only took about 5 mins of the long run to hammer home the wide ranging difference in fitness as the group soon got totally stretched out so we headed back to base.

You could tell the ones at back didn’t like being at the back holding things up and the ones at the front not keen and stringing everything out like that.

In the end we completed about 4 miles on that first night.  It blew myself and Andy’s preconceived plans out of the window and we had to get our thinking caps on to keep the group together in future weeks.  8 nice easy long runs just wasn’t going to work for this group.

One positive note from week 1 was that we had suggested people might want to consider entering the Dronfield 10k race as it was scheduled the week after our 8 week course finished.  We thought it might be a positive goal to work towards for those that had never entered a race.  Right from the off I suggested that I would enter too and pace them at whatever time they wanted to finish.  60 minutes seemed the popular choice.

So with that in mind between week 1 and week 2 we emailed out and put up on the beginner facebook group a few sample 12 week courses;  beginner to 5k, beginner 10k and intermediate 10k.  The aim was to show that all plans call for a structured increase in mileage week on week as well as the need to be running 2 or 3 times a week at differing paces.  Simple advice.

The Striders Beginner Facebook group soon became the hub of all comments, questions and information sharing for the group.

Week 2

After the semi-disastrous long run of week 2 we decided long runs were off the menu for at least 3 or 4 weeks.  So we decided to stick in the park and try some intervals.  The thinking was that the group could go out on their long runs at their own pace in their own time as per the plans we’d provided and the they would be less likely to have the knowledge or inclination to include faster runs in their own time.  So Monday nights were to become speed nights as it meant we could keep the group together too.

But first up we had three new people come for the first time, so we had them complete the time trial to see where they were.  Their times settled them into the middle of the pack.

We used the 800m loop again and split the group into three based on their time trial time.  We then had them complete loops with 90 seconds rest.  Groups one and two managed three laps whilst I managed to convince the faster group to squeeze out and extra lap.

Again, we had them running around 4 miles during the session, but at a slightly higher tempo than the week before.  The feedback was positive to the session, especially from those towards the back who felt more included this week.

Week 3

After good feedback and nearly a full compliment returning we stuck with intervals for week 3, but wanted to emphasise to the group about speed and running fast.  So the warmup was all about speed and the first quick session we did was again about running fast with a rest.  Around the tennis courts in the park provides a nice little 400m loop, so we split the group up into pairs and had them running in opposite directions around the loop, one fast the other slower.  When they met, they ran in the opposite direction and change tact, so fast became slow and slow became fast.  Because the loop was so small both running times and recoveries were short and it led to some hard work.

Once they’d got their breath back we set up and very straight forward sprinting session and put the group into threes.  Two at one end and one at the other meant that one would always be running whilst two had a rest.  The group really went for it and some were absolutely flying up and down the short sprint course.

To finish off the night we had a slow jog around some of the park to cool down.  Approximate mileage for the night was only just over 3 miles, but we really had the group working hard.  I think many of them were surprised how fast they could actually run, so it was another positive session.

Week 4

The structured was tried and tested now, keep the group in the park, keep them together, breed confidence and introduce them to different styles of interval training.  After a warmup run we had the group completing longer loops of the park (almost a mile) with 2 minute rests in between.  Most of the group managed 3 loops.  Another good session with a cool down afterwards.  We totalled around 4 miles during the hour long session.

Week 5

We were into the second half of the course now and dared to try a longer run again.  So we set off out towards Oughtibridge again as in week 1.  Thankfully with 4 weeks of running under their belts the group fared much better and completed 5.4 miles in just under an hour.  The confidence on their faces was there for all to see when they realised what they had achieved.

Week 6

Childish giggles all round when we announced a Fartlek session. Before heading out towards Neepsend we gave all the group a number, 1 to 14.  As we progressed on the run, everyone took turns to call out a landmark in the distance (lamp post, road junction, shop etc) and we ran at pace to there before dropping back to a slower pace until it was the next persons turn to lead.  Again, something new for everyone and they enjoyed it being actively involved in the session.  5 miles in just under an hour.

One of the girls shouting ‘run to the sex shop’ will live with me for quite some time. 🙂

Week 7

So we’d done long runs, fartlek, short intervals and long intervals but something was missing: hills.  Despite the name ‘Hillsborough Park’ there aren’t too many in there suited to a hill sessions for 15 people, so we used the wide gentle slope up from the swings heading towards Middlewood Road.  The session was 10 x 30 seconds up the hill with 1 min recovery jog down, trying to reach the same spot you reached on the first rep.  Much blowing and moaning towards the end indicated a good session and they’d worked hard.  With warmup and cool down either side of the hills we only ran around 3.5 miles, but they’d done enough.

Sneaky extra midweek session

I took those that were doing the Dronfield 10k out on the Hillsborough Leisure Centre / Oughtibridge loop again, but I ran most of it at 59:59 10k race pace to give them an idea of that pace and just asked them to keep up with me.  Despite it being hard work, they managed it and some even went off and completed the last mile or so quicker than target pace.  We did 5.6 miles in 55 mins, so it was a great evening and they drew so much confidence from it.  It also introduced many of them to that ‘pushing it / racing’ feeling over a longer time frame that they’d not felt before.

Week 8

The final week and we were keen to see how they had progressed.  So we had them complete the 800m loop in the park that we’d timed back in week 1.  What a transformation.

We had intended getting a few more miles in after the timed loop and started a loop around the park, but the snow/hail started to come down and it was bitterly cold.  I suppose we had been lucky with the weather upto that point considering we ran the course in January and February.

So we abandoned the session after less than 2 miles and headed over to the cafe at Hillsborough Leisure Centre for a well earned hot chocolate and a reveal of the 800m loop times.

  • Chris 3:18 (was 3:22)
  • Bill 2:57 (was 3:43)
  • Catherine M 3:24 (was 3:48)
  • Kathryn B 3:24 (was 3:55)
  • Ian 3:29 (was 4:09)
  • Jenny 4:09 (was 4:11)
  • Sarah 4:00 (was 4:19)
  • Jessica 4:45 (was 4:29) – missed loads of sessions through illness.
  • Luis 3:42 (was 4:38)
  • Ruth 3:49 (was 4:45)
  • Lisi 3:42 (was 4:51)
  • Katie 4:25 (was 4:58)
  • Carly 3:53 (was 5:04)

As you can imagine, the group felt wonderful about themselves and were really looking forward to the Dronfield 10k a week later.

Dronfield 10k

I’d agreed to pace the group to try and get them under 60 mins at this race way back on week 1 of the course and the big day had arrived.  What I hadn’t realised was how hilly the course was having never ran it before.  It was only after the first lap that I thought it was gonna be tough for the group.

Fear not though, they all did brilliantly, especially Kathryn who had to endure my shouting and encouragement(?) for a whole hour as she was the one who was so close to 59:59 pace.  On a flatter course i’m sure she’ll make it next time.

P Name Cat Time
376 Chris Willis M 00:51:40
644 Ian Brown M40 00:59:34
659 Kathryn Briggs F 01:00:26
682 Lisi Von Aster F 01:01:34
730 Sarah Jordan F 01:03:39
732 Luis Bastidas M40 01:03:40
758 Ruth Kaiser F 01:04:42
772 Jenny Longden F40 01:06:01
792 Katie Jackson F 01:07:59

As you can imagine, the group were delighted with their efforts, were full of it and rightly so. Most of them had only ever ran 5k before the 8 week course, now look at them.

Since the race, more Parkrun PBs have tumbled and the vast majority of the group have joined the club, are attending the main training nights and are looking forward to wearing their vests at the 5 Milers.

I really hope some other members of the club feel inspired to get involved the next time we run a beginners course.

We entered the programme with preconceived ideas but soon had to think on our feet and get creative, but that was part of the enjoyment, coming up with new sessions each week to suit the group.  Thankfully most of what we tried seemed to work. 🙂

In the end myself and Andy learned so much from taking the group and took pride in seeing the way they grew and improved.  They become your little mob and you try to look after them.

Well done gang, very proud of your efforts and thank you for your dedication.

Striders Beginners at Dronfield 10k 2015

Striders Beginners at Dronfield 10k 2015


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