Special Feature

CLAN Seminar Report – by Stuart McConnachie

Mel Edwards arranged a Running Seminar with a tempting line up of experts who presented on various fields of running, with the bonus of raising some cash for CLAN.

There were around 60 folk there to listen to the various experts, including 3 of us from Brechin Road Runners. As Mel introduced himself and his running CV you could appreciate the level of respect in the room. It was noticeable that there was an impressed murmur as he mentioned his 2:18 marathon PB and logging over 100,000 miles in training over the years. Us mortals can only dream of such things.

Mel Shared a few training hints with us. Most runners have heard of the “long run”, the one you do of a weekend when you’ve more time to log in some decent miles. But how long should a long run be? Mel suggested the following depending on what your goal race distance is:


Race distance Long run Time/Distance
5k 1 hour
10k 90 minutes
Half Marathon 2 hours
Marathon 21 miles (or stay out for your expected marathon finishing time)


What’s meant by staying out is that if your expected marathon time is 4 hours, he’s suggesting getting used to being on your feet and moving for those 4 hours, rather than worrying about how many miles you’re covering, and he is a big fan of doing this long run on trails.

He mentioned some of the greats of distance running, along with a sample of some of their training sessions. Notably Emil Zatopek who’s the only runner who ever won the 5000m, 10,000m and the marathon in a single Olympics (1952 in Helsinki). He was known for his brutal training regimes including running intervals of 400 metres 90 times in a day, and then repeating that same set for 14 days in a row! That’s ridiculous by my very amateur standards and Mel was certainly not suggesting we should do that ourselves. He did propose that once per year we could benefit psychologically from 1 BIG session, e.g. 200 metres 60 times. Sounds horrible but tempting. Though a recent 12x300m session put in context just how big that BIG session would be!


Kyle Greig was up next, and another incredibly impressive CV, including being part of Team GB as an ultra runner. The main thing I took from Kyle was that rest is important, and that’s not just another excuse to watch Netflix for a whole day. Kyle’s training plan has way more miles than mine would, but it was possible to understand how his philosophy on rest can be translated to the rest of us. He suggested having a training plan written out but to be prepared to be flexible with it; if your body’s feeling tired skip the planned run, or take it super easy and shorten the distance, and vice versa, if you’ve planned an easy run but you set off and feel great then just go for it and have a hard session. I’m not sure I can trust myself with this advice, I’m known to keep pushing too hard, too often, until I get an injury and then I’m a grumpy sod. So I think I’ll continue to take it easy on planned easy days.

One session that stood out on Kyle’s training log was a 20 second run up a steep hill (he suggested 20%) and then walk back down and repeating 8 times. Kyle suggested that this is useful as it builds strength and he’ll use it as a substitute for a more traditional weight training session. This sounds very similar to our own Sandy Semple’s Wednesday evening hill sprint session.  Note to self: I must get along to more of these Wednesday night sessions.


Will Stewart who’s completed the Comrades Ultra marathon and who’s a Manager for Run4it in Aberdeen had some interesting things to say about kit. One thing he said that I’d never heard before was that your running gear should NOT be washed with a fabric softener as this will essentially clog the pores which make the fabric breathable and so reduce the desirable wicking and breathable properties of your fancy running gear. He also mentioned there are three vital pieces of kit which are worth spending a bit more time considering; trainers, proper technical socks and a good sports bra (for the women runners). The socks we can probably be trusted to choose ourselves, but avoid cotton and consider a proper running pair as it’ll help to reduce blisters and discomfort. No-one wants blisters. Getting some expert help with finding the right running shoes and sports bra was strongly advised, and there seems to be less fear of finding some “pronation” nowadays, previously the staple of running shoe fitting. He suggested that pronation is your body’s way of dealing with the stresses of running and so in most cases your shoe should not be stopping it but maybe just helping to control it.


Alex Bailey who has an interest in sports nutrition presented well on what runners should eat. His main message was to eat real food, but avoid too much fat or fibre the night before or too soon before a hard training session or race. He also suggested repeatedly that one should never try something new on a race day: e.g. if you’re planning a long race and want to take on calories during the race then you should practice this in your training runs. He was also quite definite in his advice that there are very little permitted supplements that can improve your training or race performance. Though notably the one that does have some evidence is caffeine. I know personally I tend to avoid caffeine as it disturbs my sleep, but if I’ve got a race or want to go for a time at Parkrun I will have some tea an hour or two before hand and I personally feel it does give me a boost.


Martin Fraser presented very well and humorously on Parkrun and his journey from being involved getting 2 runs in Aberdeen up and running. I can’t remember the exact numbers but I’m sure he had volunteered around 100 times and run close to 200 times. That’s some serious commitment to the cause and he clearly really enjoys his involvement. Having volunteered about 5 times myself and run around 15 Parkruns I can heartily recommend both. There’s a great sense of being part of the running community and volunteering gives you a great chance to chat to fellow runners.


James Cruickshank was last up. He has helped a Commonwealth games team with their aches and pains and was clearly very well versed in the human body and how it can go wrong. I could probably have quizzed him for a whole day about my various aches and pains but his short but informative presentation will have to do for now.

One of his really interesting things was to keep in mind “WIN” that’s What’s Important Now. I thought this was really useful. Just this week I woke up with a sore ankle after putting is 18 miles over 2 days, I had planned a tempo run however keeping in mind “WIN” i considered what was immediately important was that the sore ankle settled down, so I had a rest day and sure enough a couple of days later I was feeling fine and was able to put in a hard interval session. Maybe I wouldn’t have managed this without the WIN advice still ringing in my ears.

James also suggested that 99% of running injuries are probably within our control, if we listen to our bodies and try to train with the 80:20 principal. By which he means about 80% of our training should be easy and only 20% should be high intensity or speed work.


Overall it was a most enjoyable evening and I would highly recommend attending anything similar if you are interested enough in running to have made it to the end of the article. If there’s something similar arranged in the North East I’m sure I’ll be there.


Mel finished the evening with a poem, it’s a nice ode to perseverance, the only natural running skill I’ve been blessed with but it’s served me well.


Success is failure turned inside out –

The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It might be near when it seems afar;

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

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1 Comment

  1. paulineb says:

    Thanks for this entertaining and enlightening write-up Stuart. Lots of pearls of wisdom in here.

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