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SLAN Endurance & Steeplechase
Development Day With John Bicourt and Dave Clarke
The South London Athletic Network held
its first Endurance and Steeplechase development day on November
14th, 2010 at Wimbledon Park the home of Hercules Wimbledon.
John Bicourt 2 time Olympic Steeplechase
and former British record holder (still 10th on the all-time
list) from Belgrave harriers conducted a Steeplechase Workshop.
The workshop included flexibility
drills, Hurdles drills and a chance to practice over the
barriers including the water jump under John’s tutorship. Please
see attached notes from John’s Workshop. Dave Clarke three times
National Cross Country Champion and Veteran of 12 World Cross
Country championships conducted a seminar on winter training for
Cross Country, including a presentation on his training diary’s
throughout his career. Dave gave valuable insights into the
training he did and gave some points to up and coming endurance
athletes. Please see a summary of his thoughts below.
1) Progression Build your endurance base. It took Dave a number
of seasons before he reached his optimum training level (approx.
100miles per week)
2) Rough guide on training pace. Able to talk comfortably
3) Intervals reps of 1100m to 1300m (rarely more than six at a
time, generally 1 min rec before Xmas and 2 mins after xmas -
also 200m-400m on road during winter
4) Repeat of your training over and over. Consistency builds
endurance. Keep doing the same work
5) Find a strong support system. Be honest with your coach and
know your training partners.
1) Change your shoes regularly. For Dave that was ideally every
6 weeks (100 miles per week)
2) Keep a training diary. Look to see if patterns emerge for
injuries. For Dave if he did 4 weeks of 100 miles plus it
resulted in little niggles(certainly in my 30s, not so bad in my
20s!). He changed to 3 weeks of 100, and 1 week of 90. He found
this from keeping a diary
3) Seek regular Massage/Physio.
1) Get plenty of sleep Dave mention falling asleep during Music
2) Eat well and plan your meals
3) Be prepared to give up elements of your Social Life.
1) Review your training/racing at the end of each season.
Address weakness and enhance your strengths. Look at ways where
you can progress.
2) Race and Train hard - need to race a lot more in the early
years to gain experience but not so necessary later on
Notes on how to be a (better)
The steeplechase is an endurance race
which requires skill to clear hurdles and the water jump with
the maximum bio-mechanical efficiency in order to keep the
effort in clearing them to a minimum and therefore run as fast
as you can over the distance of the race.
Using too much energy in jumping (too
high) reduces the energy left to run as fast as you could.
Most runners who take up the
steeplechase have very poor technique and lose far more energy
over the whole race than they need to, even at world class
level. Probably over 80% of current steeplechasers at all levels
would improve their race times by simply improving their
A good runner with poor technique will
always beat a poor runner with good technique but runners more
evenly matched who have good technique will always beat those
Learning to hurdle takes regular
practice. It’s a skill that has to be learnt just like any other
and practicing also crucially helps the development of the
necessary muscles and tendons used in the hurdling and water
jumping action. Hurdle stretching exercises are essential.
Distance running is very natural and
comes easily but just about every other sport requires differing
levels of skill to be any good, e.g., football, cricket, tennis,
basketball, golf, ski-ing, motor racing, etc., and of course the
technical events in athletics which includes the steeplechase,
all require a high degree of skill practice. Some learn quickly
and have a natural aptitude; others just have to work harder but
the point is everyone can improve and reach their own potential
by good practice.
First learn to hurdle: join in with a
hurdles coach and or other hurdlers. Start low and work up to
your barrier height. 2ft 6” (76.2cm) including w/j barrier for
all female age groups and 3ft (91.4cm) inc. w/j barrier for all
male age groups. Clearing the hurdle can include putting either
one or both feet on the barrier but hands on the barrier is not
Hurdling is incorporated into the
running action. You run over the hurdle, not run up to it and
jump. Start by walking over lower hurdles and then jog over them
and gradually increase speed and then height. Speed up to a
water jump from about 10-15mts out. The faster you run the
easier it is to clear hurdles and the w/j barrier.
Depending on your age group distance and ability: Male and
female U17 run 1500mts in the NYAL and 2000mts in the NJL. U20
and Senior men and women run both 2000mts and 3000mts. But only
3000mts is a championship event.
Approx predicted conversion times from flat to s/c with
reasonable barrier clearance ability:
3k time steeple 1500mts steeple
9mins - 9.40 4.00 4.20
10min - 10.45 4.30 4.55
10.30 - 11.20 5.00
5.30 7.00 7.40
The best way to improve your
steeplechase times is to improve your flat times. First and
foremost a steeplechaser has to be a good runner which takes
longer and far more training than just developing s/c technique.
A 4mins 1500 runner cannot run faster than about 4.16 for a
steeple even with the most brilliant technique. But improving
the flat 1500 down to 3.50 will bring the s/c time down to
around 4.08 and pro rata all other distances.
Suggested s/c training sessions:
After normal warm up running/stretching
/drills/ you must do specific hurdling stretching as shown.
Space 2-3 double (opposing) hurdles down
the length of the back straight approx 50mts apart. You now have
a 25mts run in and a 25 mt run out over 100mts. Just practice
running over them without stuttering. Right handed/footed
athletes should lead with the left leg as much as possible.
Ideally you should hurdle (run over) with either leg but the
brain always favours one side and that side makes is more
efficient. Lean into the hurdle and run over them leaving the
trail leg back as long as possible, it will follow you because
Training is simply the means of
causing the body to adapt to the stress and demands of the
competition and must be progressive. The effort level may
remain the same but as the body adapts the performance
increases. In fact the fitter you become the less effort you
appear to feel. Training at, for example, c85% effort will
progressively produce faster times both in training that
previously only your 100% effort would produce
At least once a week (weather
permitting) and as soon as possible run long reps of either, 3-5
x 600mts- or 2-4 x 800mts or 1-3 x 1000mts over 5 hurdles (5th
hurdle where the water jump is) Basically it can be a mix of
distances or the same. I prefer the same equal distances. Try to
run at just inside your target race time, e.g., if your target
is to break 10mins then you need to be able to run at least 80
secs per lap. Start with 600’s at 2mins (2 mins recovery) when
those are handled comfortably (and faster) move another day to
800’s at the same pace (2.5 mins rec) then another day to
1000mts (same pace) with 3-4 mins rec. You groove in the pace.
Break the 1500mts and 2000mts s/c down the same way.
Keep flat training going of course.
Longer reps will give better results than just short reps but
short reps are still important (faster and with shorter
recovery- .e.g., 2x (6-10 x 200mts in 30-34) with 30 secs (or
100mts fast jog) recovery to develop anaerobic capacity.
The key point on any training programme
is that it is a “balanced” mix of aerobic and anaerobic running
(c60-70 %aerobic – c35-40% anaerobic) 90% of your “steady” runs
should be as fast as comfortably possible for at least 50% of
the run, e.g., a 40-60 min run should include some sustained
effort running, e.g., 3-4 x 5-6 mins at 10k race pace with 2-3
mins rec, or 2-3 x 7-10 mins at 10k race pace with 3-4 mins rec.
Or 10-15 mins near the end of the run at 10k race speed. There
are numerous variations on what you can do, just remember to run
as fast as you can as often as you can. Recovery running and
rest is important so never run hard if feeling psychologically
down/tired/ stiff or suffering a cold. NEVER run if you have
flu. Not even to jog!
Keep a brief daily diary so that you can
monitor your progress. Also a good idea to rate each training
session according to how you felt as A (brilliant) B (good) C
(OK-average) D (poor)
Try to run a hill session each week,
either around a course with different hills or choose one to go
up and down (keep off any busy road!) 10-20x30secs – 60 secs is
ideal and must be sufficiently steep to make you work hard. Eat
well and get plenty of sleep.
John Bicourt 07838359280