Tips From The Top


Take your training up a notch with this advice from Tom Poynton.

During my time in the club I’ve had a lot of really interesting discussions about how to make the most of one’s running. This has only increased since becoming the committee lead responsible for our range of coached endurance sessions and road, trail and fell running team events, and I’ve had the opportunity to learn from many talented and enthusiastic people.

Here is a summary of the main things I have learnt that you may find useful but which are not commonly found in books, magazines or websites.

Take ownership

You need to take charge and decide what to focus on to get the most out of your running. It’s very easy to just drift from one race to the next and simply turn up to coached sessions because they are there. Instead, think carefully about what goals you want to achieve. In 2011 the club organised a seminar in which Martin Rush from England Athletics discussed how to progress as a marathon runner.  He gave an example of some training sessions to achieve this, and the slides were put up on the club website shortly after. Things could have been left there, but it was a group of faster club members who organised themselves into running the suggested sessions on a regular basis that meant this advice bore fruit.

Link up with like-minded people

Some people can do tough sessions by themselves, while others need people around them to push when things get hard. Everyone needs people with similar goals and ambitions that they can talk to and exchange ideas with. It really helps to have people that you can both compete against but also collaborate with.

Be committed over a long period of time

Although some people are more responsive to training than others, there are no short cuts in endurance running and everyone will maximise their performance through consistent training over a long period of time.

Manage your time effectively

Running is a great hobby, but we all have other things going on in our lives, and even at the highest level very few people can make a living from it. So, if you want to spend a lot of time running it can really help to think about how you can do this without neglecting  all the other things you need to do in life. For example, at a seminar I organised last January, Jonathan Poole mentioned that he run-commuted in order to get the necessary mileage in.

Make sure that you enjoy at least some of it but don’t expect it all to be fun

Running can be fantastic – you can spend time in beautiful countryside, enjoy the buzz of big city races, step onto podiums and get a big shiny medal, and also make lots of wonderful friends. But there are times when running isn’t what you want to do and it’s necessary to remind yourself why you do this. It can also be necessary to train and race at an intensity that just feels like really hard work and downright painful. One of the most impressive Serpie runners described his feelings about the very long and very intense club track sessions that he attended. He didn’t enjoy doing them but he knew they made him a better runner so he found a way to get through them at the right intensity and duration.

Find time for other things in life

Our fastest runners drill down into the necessary detail to work out what they have to do and then put in the necessary training, but they’re not monomaniacs and they find time for other things in life (mainly craft beer). This makes them more rounded individuals and can help put things in perspective when running doesn’t go to plan.

This is just some of what I’ve learnt and I’m sure there are other things I could have mentioned. There’s a great amount of experience and wisdom within the club that you can tap into, regardless of your ability and ambition, as well as inspirational figures that can make you rethink what is possible. Do make the most of it.

Tom Poynton has been running since 2008 and a Serpentine member since December 2011. When not running, he enjoys food and drink and exploring the countryside.

Grace Sim did the illustration for this article. Go and have a look round her website (link below).