Training Camp & The Hell’s Angels of Running?

I have never been on a training camp for social runners before so this was a new experience for me although I been with the ‘Running Crazy’ organisation previously to Benidorm and Barcelona to run half marathons. As I landed at Palma (Majorca) I didn’t see a cloud in the sky and was looking forward to eight days of sunshine with the thought of running every other morning, swimming/sunbathing every afternoon and socialising every evening. Running Crazy has a reputation for putting on some great post race parties and having enjoyed those that I had previously attended I knew that I could expect more of the same as far as the social aspect was concerned.

In the arrivals hall I was meet by the two people, Helen Summer and Gerry North, who were going to be coaching and looking after the social runners this year. On the way to our hotel in Palmanova I found out that there would be other social runners from Glasgow and Essex plus athletes from the City of Portsmouth AC and Germany sharing our very modern athletics track facilities with an added 1Km cross country trail for time trials and two specially designed hills of 12% (75m) and 17% (100m) gradients for repetition work.

Helen is a qualified AAA coach who has just had her latest book ‘Running Crazy’ published and it is a fantastic read. The book is about some members of The 100 Marathon Club also known as The Hell’s Angels of Running and Running Sluts – running one race whilst thinking of another. The book is divided into 26.2 chapters (yes 26.2!) all of which are short stories about ordinary everyday people like us with the specific aim of wanting to complete 100 marathons. Brian Mills has completed the marathon over 800 times and as with all those mentioned his chapter is about why he wanted to run 100, how he found the time, the money, the energy, etc. It makes my wanting to run 12 half marathons in the next 12 months seem a little silly in comparison to the colourful, contrasting characters with stories that will make you laugh and cry at times. One chapter is about a girl that I (and a few others) ran with last year that involved 11 miles either side of the Thames, 11 pubs and 11 drinks over an 8 hour period, but we won’t go there today!

Gerry has been involved in athletics all his life, from being a top class international athlete through the 60’s, a team manager from club to international level from the mid 80’s and now as a coach to individuals. He is the only person to have won the National Cross Country Championships in three different age groups – as a junior, a senior and a master in the over 50’s. Recently he was very deservingly presented with The South of England Region ‘Services to Athletics Award’. In his day he trained hard, still loves the sport of running and is inspirational in his direct and straight talking approach. I had meet Gerry in Benidorm and he makes no effort to change your attitude towards training, and running, but gives the simple advice of – if you want to be good, you must be determined, make the time, be prepared to sacrifice and believe in yourself.

Having checked in at the hotel I confirmed (over afternoon tea) that I only wanted to run every other morning and just once a day at that. The 4 star, half board hotel, for adults only, was 30 minutes from the airport and directly on the beach with its own pool and just under 1 mile from the athletics track. Over the evening meal I re-affirmed what I wanted to do training wise, over my eight day stay, as we drank through two bottles of wine (social runner) and no pressure was made to get me to change my mind. We agreed that we would go up to the track at 11:00 in the morning and then as good social runners we went out until 3:00 a.m. which was repeated on two more evenings during the week to further celebrate a birthday and a farewell night.

To cut a long story short I never missed breakfast once (self-service full English plus toast), ran every single morning, was always on time and on three occasions went back for a second training session in the late afternoon around 5:00 p.m-ish. I was taught warm-up drills, completed track and hill sessions, and went on runs from 4 to 7 miles over a mixture of surfaces and terrain in temperatures of 20 – 25 degrees Celsius. After each training session we slipped off our footwear and went into the ice-cold sea water up to our knees for 10 minutes which proved very beneficial. On my last day, after breakfast, I fitted in a final 45 minutes sunbathing did a warm-up jog to the track followed by two times 1Km cross country time trials with 5 minutes rest in-between before heading back to the hotel and booking out ready for my afternoon flight home. I took in all the advice I was given and I hope to apply some of it now that I am back. The training camp has certainly changed my approach to what I plan to do in the future and I have been promised a written report on my training in the next two weeks – which should make for interesting reading if it refers to my late night drinking and dancing with the other social runners!