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Moving Endurance Running Forward

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Mo Farah image 2

23 February 2009

Article by Ian Stewart as seen in Athletics Weekly magazine

In the months since my appointment as endurance lead at UKA I have been pleased to give my ear to a number of endurance athletes and coaches to gauge their opinions going forward.

As well as the Endurance Advisory panel  consisting of Lord Coe Paula Radcliffe, Dave Bedford, Steve Cram, Brendan Foster, Liz McColgan, the input I have had from the sport has been invaluable.

This coming weekend demonstrates the wide range of athletes in this area. Whilst some will be glued to their TV sets or at the NIA watching some of our best face world class opposition in the Aviva Grand Prix, on the same afternoon the English National will take place at Parliament Hill involving hundreds of cross country runners.

Whilst more information will come through in the coming months about the direction we are going to take, there are some points I think can be made here and now

Firstly - I feel endurance athletes and the endurance area is a special case and hasn't always shouted as loudly as it should in relation to long term planning or something as simple as a holding camp location. Endurance athletes need different considerations in the same way sprinters, jumpers and throwers do.

Secondly, I want more athletes running more miles. One size doesn't always fit all, and there may be a rare athlete who will benefit from a smaller workload. However the majority of runners need to get out there and run and get the miles in. There are too many athletes who like to announce how little they are doing.  As for "less is more" the only time that expression is right in endurance running is two weeks before an Olympic final.

Thirdly - we need hard yards and big groups.  We need 70 runners, not ten at endurance weekends. In my mind we should also be opening it out to as many athletes who want to come. If we got 60-70 athletes turn up for a Sunday run we're not going to have a group running 60-abreast - everyone will find their own level within a big group and from big groups, come promising athletes.

Four - and with my meeting director hat on here - endurance runners in this country have a fantastic series of indoor and outdoor major events held on their doorstep each and every year. I would say to every endurance athlete:  if we have your event - then you must be there. There can be no benefit in travelling abroad to run in a minor meeting when you have a better opportunity on your doorstep.

Five and possibly my closing comment for now - I believe running is simple - the general theme is hard work. I don't think running a lot of miles is a big ask of an athlete, but I do think we've put barrier in front of athletes in recent years and some coaches have made it more complicated than it needs to be.

At the end of the day, we need to win hearts and minds and get more people running, if we can do that then we are heading in the right direction.