I was recently reading this thread on runner’s world <click here if you want to read it, it’s quite interesting>. Basically a young fit guy just ran his first 5k in about 21:30 and has bet his mate he can do sub 20 in 3 weeks. He is not a runner however. But he claims to be very fit and he is prepared to do anything in 3 weeks to get there. Of course we all know that you can’t really get much exercise benefit in 3 weeks…or can you?
Can he do it?
Turns out he didn’t (sorry to spoil the read). But he was mightily close. In fact a slower start and a pair of race/track shoes would have probably made the difference (if he wasn’t already wearing them). The point is that IT WAS POSSIBLE. Difficult, admittedly, but CERTAINLY possible.
I found it quite interesting how contributors to the thread said it was impossible; including seasoned runners. I would have probably said he wouldn’t do it as well. Though I would have said he would be 15-30 seconds off rather than 4 seconds!
Of course this doesn’t mean that if you’ve just done 21:30 you will be able to do 19:XX in 3 weeks. You won’t be able to and neither would I at that stage. The point of the thread was that this was a VERY FIT guy and also VERY determined. You and I might be very determined but Iused the capital letters for him and he was also very fit. Which I wasn’t when I did that sort of time.
Perhaps we remember (or are experiencing) how difficult it is to go sub 20. How we try SO hard to eek out those 10 or so seconds improvement month by month?
It was also interesting to read the conflicting advice given to him. Clearly he did not have the running endurance…but can you get that in 3 weeks whilst including a taper? Would going hell for leather in the training cause him injury (probably).
I’ve always thought how much difference the mind makes. I reckon that up to about 20% is in the mind. And that’s a lot. I think maybe at best I’ve only got half of that. This guy in the thread probably got more.
You think of your last PB and how knackered you were when you collapsed over the line. How could you have done better? Surely you tried your hardest? You couldn’t be more tired could you? Well if you look at your KM splits I bet the 1st and 5th KMs (with the sprint) were the fastest. Better pacing would have helped methinks, so you could have tried harder.
That brings us back to the torment of putting up with unrelenting. continuous suffering over 20 minutes with ABSOLUTELY NO RESPITE. That’s where the psychology comes in. Sure once the acid builds up in your muscles you are a bit stuffed and that determines your physical maximal effort (or thereabouts, I’m not a physiology expert) but really that should only be happening to approaching a debilitating level for the last 30 seconds or so of the race. The psychology is what keep you on the edge of that “zone where you don’t want to go”.
So it’s psychology. Or a lot of it is.
Let’s face it if someone was there with the proverbial gun at your family’s heads (were you not to do a certain time the gun would go off) then I would imagine that we would all gain close to that maximum 20% psychological effect and do the time.
Just a thought!