JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Time to go harder


The Long Run

Pip Coates was a swimmer until life got busy and she discovered the addictive simplicity of running. She's never looked back.

View more entries from The Long Run

Liam Adams: first over the line at this year's City2Surf.

Liam Adams: first over the line at this year's City2Surf.

What’s not to like about the City to Surf?

From the excitement of the mass start to running through some of Sydney’s most iconic streets and then the chance to swap stories over a coffee down at the beach afterwards, it’s the biggest running party of the year.

...if you want to have physical improvement you have got to do speed work and to do that you’ve got to go hard. 

Last weekend was only my second year, which makes me a baby in C2S terms – especially compared to the genial bloke with whom I exchanged a few words on Heartbreak Hill. He was on his 42nd.

Every one of the 69,000 finishers would have had a target in their own mind. For many it would have been just to finish, for others it would have been to run all the way, while others would have had a specific time in mind.

I trimmed about five minutes from last year’s time, which I was pretty happy with, although it was slower than I hoped for and still more than six minutes off the magic one-hour mark.

As usual, my training, if it can be dignified with that name, was pretty hit and miss, generally consisting of getting out for a run whenever possible and trying to slot in a longer run of 20km+ on the weekends when life and work allowed. It works pretty well for general fitness and keeping the weight off but if I’m ever going to be a sub-60m C2S runner, I know I’m going to have to be a little more structured about my training.

So, with an eye on August 11, 2013, I asked personal trainer Michael Berry what I needed to do to have a shot at a really decent C2S time.

And, in the nicest possible way, Michael said I needed to work a harder (I knew there was going to be a catch).

“The thing most people miss out on is being able to train at a high intensity,” he said. “It requires that little bit of push. Cruising along and jogging is wonderful – it breaks down stress and burns up some calories, you can see the sights, lift your mood and get some positive hormones going but if you want to have physical improvement you have got to do speed work and to do that you’ve got to go hard.”

A combination of types of speed work is important so your body doesn’t get too adapted to one particular method.

“You can mix it up with short distance intervals and then you might do fast continuous work where you are moving for say five minutes at a time,” said Michael. “Then the next day you might get onto a different surface, doing some beach sprints, which takes a lot more strength in the legs.”

And is it too early to start thinking about next year’s City 2 Surf? Apparently not.

The earlier the better, according to Michael, but it’s also good to slot in a few other events at regular intervals as well to create a “running lifestyle”. (Check here for some inspiration) It also keeps up the motivation and also lets you practise your race-day routine.

Of course, speed work is just one part of a focused training program, long runs, rest days are also important but in general I reckon it’s time to get a bit more scientific about my training.

If I can clock a C2S finish with a “5” in it before I’m too much older, it’ll all be worth it.

How was your City 2 Surf? Did you feel you’d done enough training? Do you do speed work regularly or are you never going to be that organised?

31 comments so far

  • Good article. Last year I trained for a half marathon that ran in September. Lots of longer runs and very little speed work. Ran city to surf 76 mins from back of second start group.

    This year didn’t run more than 11km in training runs and generally did 1 or 2 v fast 5-6km runs a week – runs that hurt!

    Ran 71 this year from back of blue pack – which I reckon is worth high 60’s..... all about leg strength. You can feel the difference. You have a spring in your step.

    Date and time
    August 16, 2012, 5:04PM
    • I think the key is, if you can't do it in training, then you're unlikely to do it on the day. I have done a Melbourne 'run for the kids' (14.14km) and x2 half marathons. I trained for both on a treadmill as it is simply the best method if you are time oriented. So many people say 'it's just too boring', but if your goal is a specific time, then this is definitely the best way. Your body learns how fast it needs to run and learns the required rythym. On all three runs I have made sure I have gone under my desired goal in training prior. For the the halfies this was 90min and the 14.14 one it was 58min. I then managed to go under these times on the actual day. Going in knowing you can do a time gives you the confidence to achieve it. When your body feels tired, you know that you can push through it because you have already proven this in training.

      Date and time
      August 17, 2012, 3:55PM
  • I should add that i am 45 and my best time when early/mid 20's was 57mins. I am only starting to realise what a good time that is for someone who was never high school cross country champion etc. Must admit i never did any particular speed work back then though....

    Date and time
    August 16, 2012, 5:11PM
    • I know, I know. But I enjoy the longer, slower runs SO much more! :)

      Date and time
      August 16, 2012, 9:52PM
      • and get yourself a decent position in the pack you are in. A less interupted run in something like C2S can be worth a couple of minutes all by itself.

        Date and time
        August 17, 2012, 8:35AM
        • I am same as u Anna. Long slow runs for me as well. For me, I want to enjoy the motion of running, not dread it right from the start. I want to experience the zen state, where u feel u can just run forever..where all teh stress in the world just melts away, and u can go on running till eternity..

          U feel enlightened..

          Date and time
          August 17, 2012, 8:54AM
          • Just need to shave off one more minute - the you will have a sixty FIVE. Job done. :-)

            But seriously, my PB: 62:24 - 2 years ago and I haven't run since because I know the extra 2 minutes 24 will take 6 months of hard yakka. Jogging at 4:45 is nice - sprinting up hills and sand dunes and stairs is not.

            Date and time
            August 17, 2012, 10:05AM
            • Need the speed training - agree it is not fun but it makes a difference. I much prefer a 3 hr slow run to a 30-40min speed session, but they make a huge difference if you want to go fast

              My first C2S two years ago was about 64mins. Training at that stage was regular 10km runs.

              Skipped last year for some longer events, with lots of long runs. Had a marathon in March this year before deciding to take a good crack at C2S. Training was all short runs since then 10-15km and lots of interval training. Never done the interval training before and it makes a huge difference. At least once a week doing lunchtime intervals - PITD is good for group motivation or there are always plenty of people down by the water in the domain going gate to gate (about 800m).

              This year C2S was 54mins. Lack of hill/distance training hurt a little on the hill, but the ability to run much faster either side more than made up for it.

              Looking forward to a long easy run on the weekend.

              Date and time
              August 17, 2012, 10:52AM
              • For the C2S you can actually get great results on a very small time budget. It is all about quality. No matter how much time you have, you actually need the short, intensive runs to teach your body to run fast, otherwise it only knows how to run slow and will be unable to break out of this pattern, even if you have the energy and fitness to go faster. In recent years I have only been able to run for (an intensive) half an our a day - no long runs at all. I can tell you that for this distance, you still get good results (sub-55mins) - though I would never attempt a marathon without at least a long run a week.

                Date and time
                August 17, 2012, 11:38AM
                • Great article and very timely.

                  GC et al. what do you mean by quicker short distances?

                  I run two 5km/week and a 10km on Sundays and can't crack 5min/km. Admittedly I am coming off a base of being very unfit. During my first grade rugby years I was very good at a sprint but hated the distance runs; I think at running distance I just settle in on a pace. This is not the case, I am trying to push on the 5km but get nowhere.

         the 5km the distance that I should be doing speed work on? I started last week throwing in 200m sprints on hills (grass and road), say 15 of these...but is the 200m too short?

                  Thanks for anyones feedback.

                  Date and time
                  August 17, 2012, 12:38PM

              More comments

              Make a comment

              You are logged in as [Logout]

              All information entered below may be published.

              Error: Please enter your screen name.

              Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

              Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

              Error: Please enter your comment.

              Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

              Post to

              You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

              Thank you

              Your comment has been submitted for approval.

              Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

              Featured advertisers
              Executive Style newsletter signup

              Executive Style newsletter signup The latest news delivered to your inbox twice-weekly.

              Sign up now