Friday, 8 July 2011

A fartlek run, some research and a past incident

A group of 11 of us did a fartlek session over the Blaydon Burn / Thornley Woods loop.  However, we did the loop in the reverse direction to the usual and added on 3 laps of the track to make distance up to 8 miles.

I must admit I found the session tough (but enjoyable).  Towards the end of the session as we completed a mile and a quarter tempo section and passed behind the Black Bull and along the banks of the Tyne I could visualise the refreshing pint of Black Sheep I would soon be having there.

I see that the results of a recent study by psychologist Dr Laura Chaddock published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, suggests that people who run have an improved ability to multi-task.

The experiment that forms the basis to this claim involved 36 students, 18 non-athletic and 18 athletes, who were placed in a virtual reality situation where they had to travel through a virtual world at their own speed and safely cross an unsigned road intersection, while avoiding traffic that was moving at speeds of between 40 and 50 mph.

The results found that the athletes group had a higher success rate than the non-athletes as they had faster processing skills.

I suspect, however, that the results may be influenced by the fact that the athletes were more practiced at negotiating such situations through a variety of their training experiences.

This reminded me of one of my past experiences and shows that practice does not guarantee success on every occasion, as the newspaper article from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, below, will testify.

It was back in 1984 and the week leading up to the Northern Six Stage Road Relay Championships.  We had a good team and felt confident that we would qualify for the National Championships for the first time.  The session we were doing was a 10 mile loop around Crawcrook with 10 x 1 min efforts.  I remember, it was just after the start of the second effort and we had to cut across a small side road.  I was leading the group and after a quick check started across the road.  I was about half way across when a car appeared from around the corner and there was no way I could avoid it.

Despite still having swollen ankles and right knee I still ran on the Saturday.  However, it still rankles with me that a below par performance by myself as a result meant we just missed out on qualification to the Nationals.  The team had been  steadily working its way through the field when I took over on the penultimate leg in 13th position.  However, instead of moving us higher as was expected I dropped to 17th leaving Nick far too much to do on the last leg.  We eventually finished 16th.

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