Coach’s Corner is a new feature for our AURA members, where qualified trained professionals provide you with advice and tips on improving and enhancing your ultra running performance.

Contributed by Keith Sullivan, Run Coach at Run Training in Queensland
Keith Sullivan is a Level 2 Run Coach, accredited with Athletics Australia. He is an runner and coach for distances of 5kms through to ultra marathons. He has completed the Coast to Kosci twice, Comrades and Marathon des Sables. Keith has held one World’s Best Age Group record and Australian bests. At 66 years of age, Keith shows that age is no barrier to running ultras.

I am often asked how it is that at my age I am still running ultra marathons – don’t my knees and ankles hurt or get worn out? People are still telling me that in a few years’ time I will suffer badly from arthritis! Perhaps it’s just I’m blessed with good musculoskeletal genetics; that may be the case but I prefer to believe that I look after myself and train reasonably sensibly (for me). So what does ‘reasonably sensibly’ mean and can it apply to other old buggers, like you?

Conventional wisdom appears to be that as you age:

  • Do less: Long runs
  • Do more: Cross-training
  • Do less: Days per week of running
  • Do more: Quality workouts
  • Do less: All-out sprints
  • Do more: Intermittent intervals
  • Do less: Frequent racing
  • Do more: Selective racing

All of this sounds logical, even sensible, but as we know everyone is different and what works for one person does not work for another.

The two main reasons given for us getting slower have to do with

  • Fast and slow twitch muscles (as you age you lose fast twitch muscles)
  • The muscles decreasing ability to repair (recover) and adapt after training/racing

It’s difficult to record here what my typical weekly training is because it varies depending on the phase I am in (maintenance, specific race prep, improve endurance, improve speed etc), but in the maintenance phase I will be looking at doing 100 to 130ks a week which is made up of the following mandated outings – two interval sessions, one tempo session and one long slow run.

I normally run six days a week so the remaining kilometres are made up of gentle efforts of somewhere between 10 and 20ks

As the years are passing, I am becoming more convinced of the need to include specific strength training into the routine, so three times a week I will do a strength session (with weights) that covers two of: legs, upper body and core.

In relation to the second reason why we slow as we age (slower recovery and adaption after exercise), I try to spread the training out over the day/week and do regular stretching and rolling.

I also monitor my heart rate during the more gentle sessions, so that I run burning predominantly fat, as opposed to trying to run at a specific pace.

If you need any more information head to Keith’s Run Training Facebook page and leave a message.