I started working with Nick after a brief chat with him whilst on MST duties on the Summer Fan. Many will know the sort of stuff I’ve done over the last few years, but if truth be told I felt like I was standing still a bit. The focus and commitment to my training wasn’t there in the same way it was previously, and after my injury (knee was completely lacerated down to the knuckle from a fall on to a piece of lava rock) and the subsequent surgery I had on my knee to repair it, I was convinced that I was then at a level that I couldn’t push past.

After The 100 Peaks I went through the motions with my training really, just doing enough to make sure I could cover the (marathon and ultra) distances I needed to cover comfortably, without over stretching myself, physically and physiologically. However, I quickly determined that I needed to be more than that, I was getting nothing out of my training and even less out of the events I was doing. I needed something to change or indeed someone to look at what I was doing and give me new impetus and a different approach.

With a plan set for Chicago Marathon in October gone, I then set myself a target of running a 3:05 marathon in 2019. The time I need to qualify ‘Good for Age’ for the last of my American World Marathon Majors in New York, the actual target is a Sub 3. I’d been playing with the notion of getting someone to help me for some time but had struggled to find anyone who I trusted enough. I didn’t want someone involved who would give me something generic given to every Tom, Dick and Harry. I wanted a plan that was tailored to my goals, that would push my limits and develop me consistently.

Given Nick’s background and knowing he’d know what my focus was, I decided to put my trust in him. My brief to Nick was that I wanted to run a Sub 3 marathon at some point in the very near future and break the 3:30 for the Fan (if I do it again). Plus, at some point in the future, I wanted to compete in the MdS and on bigger ultras.

Nick asked me if I do much ‘weighted’ stuff to which I stated that I didn’t, other than when I need to in the near build up to an event. I never took much stock in the notion of doing the weighted runs consistently, believing if anything that it would be counterproductive to the results I was looking for. Nick introduced that aspect back in to my training, alongside greater structure to my run sessions, insisting if I want to get faster and stronger, then I need to trust him. I duly did, and I’m glad I did.

Whilst come Chicago I didn’t hit a PB for the marathon (not that I expected to), I did see a massive difference in my performance in terms of consistency and progression over the longer miles with a significant increase in strength and power as the miles went by. The actual race itself was hampered by stomach issues on the day, but the race I ran was the most consistent I’d run, since I’d run the distance in my mid-20’s.

Fast forward another 6 weeks and after my block of training in the last month once again I’ve seen a distinct difference in my pace and my strength over time and my endurance. My endurance has always been decent but again that has been improved dramatically. What do I put it down to? Simply, the plan and trusting in it and the process. Whilst I’m sure I would have noticed the progression in my training if I’d purely concentrated on running road miles and developing my sessions to build strength, speed, power and endurance, it’s with the weighted sessions I’ve noticed the progression most. It’s very evident (with pack on) that week on week there has been significant progress and I think as such it has become the barometer of the shape I’m in. And will become the benchmark for that measure too going forward.

However, the crux, we all know (or should), irrespective of a plan, if you don’t have the focus and commitment you need to achieve your goals, the plan and process is next to useless. Therefore, if you want to improve, if you want to go beyond your perceived levels, if you want to see what you’re truly made of, my advice would be, focus on your goals (one step at a time), be disciplined in your approach and have a plan!

I used to use the 1:40 (which was my last Paras’10 time) as that benchmark. I’m now well below that (with Nick setting me new targets) and although I won’t really know if we’re on target for the Sub 3 for the marathon for some time yet, as I said, I will trust in the plan, the process and my mindset to get me there.

Want to go fast? Go to Nick! Want to go far? Go to Nick! Why did I want to work with Nick? The evidence is obvious now, I wanted to go from someone who performed well on the challenges I take on, to someone who could use every last ounce of what I have to achieve and go beyond those previous markers and put down new ones. For me, that should be the minimum for us all no matter the level you perceive yourself to be. Nick can get you where you want to be, but you have to trust him, put the work in and more importantly, trust yourself!


Steph O'Brien

About

Steph is the bestselling author of 6 novels, including He Lies, I've never written a book and Maybe one day. He lives in Derbyshire with “the wife,” “the dogs,” “those chickens,” and he occasionally wears the pants.
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