Monday, 13 February 2012

Chasing Olympic qualification - Paul Martelletti interview

At this time of year we are beginning to hit the peak of marathon training in Europe, so I want to up the content on the blog to help focus minds in those crucial last weeks of training, when we’re sharpening the opportunity to hit personal bests.

One runner currently sharpening their condition is Kiwi Paul Martelletti of Victoria Park Harriers. Known in the club as both a friendly and exceptionally quick runner, he has improved to Olympic standard level (A PB of 2:16:49 over 26.2 miles). This is a particular source of interest given the club is the nearest to the 2012 site.

Marders” is a dedicated runner (he has topped out at 162 miles some weeks) having worked at a talent he first realized as a young student in his native New Zealand. After returning to endurance running prior to coming to the UK, he is now knocking on the door of the Kiwi selectors, to be their representative in London this summer. 

Last year, Paul finished 14th in the Berlin marathon - the fastest ever race over the 26.2 mile distance - and recently tried to finish in the top 10 of the Xiamen race, in order to qualify for the NZ Olympic  ‘A’ standard. Unfortunately it didn’t go according to plan and in some discomfort, he came home in 20th place in 2:31:24

I was keen to understand the training and psychology required to finish in the top 20 of a major marathon, competing against the best in the world. What does it take to go from being a good runner to running with the elite?

In describing going from good to better, Paul identifies that having set his goal to improve, it was necessary to up his mileage and run more! As Bud Baldaro advocates, there’s nothing better for getting quicker than having worked up some serious volumes of miles.

Having developed his self confidence through running more miles, I asked how important Paul thinks the mental aspects of racing are. He stressed how crucial your mental state is in the latter stages of a race, as it can “get you down, if you allow it.” 

He anticipates the final stages to be hard so prepares in training accordingly.

 I asked whether he used visualization as a technique prior to or during races. He said he tries mentally running his splits prior to race day. Whilst visualising, he's anticipating what to expect, to kinesthetically ‘feel’ how he will experience the race to the finish line. 

Taking a good look at the race finish helps him complete race preparation. For more detail, check out his account of preparation prior to the Amsterdam marathon and how it helped him how to judge his finish to reach a personal best.  

He doesn’t necessarily identify any racing edge to achieve his positions and times, but the effect of competition makes him run faster. That and the fear of spoiling his stats! In January, Paul ran in China to try and finish the top 10 of a recognized race to get an ‘A’ standard for the marathon, and a place on the team. Having not achieved this, he is now aiming at either the London or Rotterdam marathon to get the time needed to run in London 2012. 

Overall, having the chance to qualify for the Olympics is something that 2 or 3 years ago he wouldn’t have thought it even possible so it is a bonus to possibly be joining the best athletes in the world. He says that if it doesn’t happen, that its not end of the world. There’s also the 2016 games, the Commonwealth games and Worlds. But being the best New Zealander is on his radar and something he is striving for.  Given that he posted on his Twitter account yesterday that he won the Sidcup 10 mile in 50 minutes 27 (after 21 miles the day earlier and a 110 mile week), it shouldn't be too long before that target is reached. Good luck in going for the NZ marathon place Paul!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Running Inspiration

I was listening to Marathon talk earlier today, hearing the scholarly tones of Bruce Tulloh talking to Martin Yelling. It reminded me of hearing Bruce talk at a UKA day I went to two years ago, where he spoke to a group of coaches and runners, hanging on his every word to gain knowledge and assist their running. In British athletics, Bruce has been around longer than most, written many books on the subject and talks with authority and academic rigour on the subject, without boring his audience. For that reason he is an inspiration to me, and what I try to do on this blog and to people I meet. I try and impart some of the science (which I'm less knowledgeable on) and psychology of endurance. If you haven't already, check out the Marathon Talk archive - its a whose who of distance running!

The same day I met Bruce, I also met Bud Baldaro for the first time. Bud is a strong character. Based in Birmingham and a hugely respected coach to a number of top level GB athletes over the years. Both he and Bruce were keen to emphasise desire and motivation in athletes to succeed and push themselves harder to win, and set record breaking times. They state that talent goes so far, but determination on the part of a runner is the key ingredient to improving to fulfil your potential.

This got me thinking for a blog entry. Who are the people that inspire me most? Both in terms of coaching/sport psychology and my own running. Of those I met, I can see why Alberto Salazar is such an inspiring figure.  Most known in the UK for his work with Mo Farah, Alberto was a legendary marathon runner in his own right in the 80s, and has transitioned to become one of the most respected coaches in the world. Added to this, as he told me in 2010, he has worked for the past 5 years with sport psychologist Darren Treasure for the Oregon project, and greatly values the input of psychological training as much as the underwater treadmills, trusted methods and first hand knowledge that keep him at the leading edge of endurance.

From my world of academic research, Matt Buman at ASU has conducted a lot of research on hitting the wall (bonking in triathlon terminology) and encouraged me when I was doing my thesis. He inspired me to get my work finished and offered advice afterwards on getting published. Similarly, my unofficial mentor, Dave Alcock at UWE inspires me to persevere with my efforts to gain chartership to be a fully fledged Sport Psychologist.

In training I can always rely on Simon Freeman to offer support. Where I get the inspiration most from Simon is the fact that he is someone like you and me, who has found through running a way in which he can improve himself. Through his health, training and vocation, he is now a 2:40 marathon runner, something even he wouldn't have though possible 5 years ago! Within my club I'm lucky that Paul Martelletti continues to impress with his times trying for a place in the 2012 olympics. Having club mates setting top times spurs me on to get that bit better, work harder in training and enjoy my running in order to get fitter, and go the extra distance.

Similarly, my best friend who I will be visiting in Japan in 2 months, Ed Price, inspired me by running his first marathon last year in Kobe. Though he's not sure whether he'll do another one, it was emotional knowing he was running the distance on the other side of the world after dedicating himself to months of hard work. Similarly, my mate Birdy in Manchester ran the New York marathon 2 years ago, getting round on a really painful foot caused by an accident from her youth.

Without all of these characters, I would still run, but I wouldn't be as inspired, or as full of belief that I can get much better.

Let me know who inspires you, regardless of who that person is or how well they're known. And in what ways do they inspire you to push yourself and reach your best?