Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A Lesson Learned...

For most athletes in Northern Ireland it is a great accomplishment to represent their Country, some athletes choose to run for Ireland, and others choose to run for Great Britain. However, in the Commonwealth Games it's an opportunity to represent the small country of Northern Ireland.

Up until recently the Commonwealth games were just a competition late in the season that I honestly didn't believe I could qualify for. The times were released last year and my Pb's were a long way away, with some athlete's already qualifying including magnificent junior Ciara Mageean, and the well established 1500m runner Kelly McNeice. I decided that I wouldn't put all my focus into the commonwealths incase I was faced with dissappointment. During previous years, I spent alot of time chasing qualifying times for the 3000m S/C and I believe this affected my performances in other competitions. The problem with chasing qualifying standards leaves room for negativity if you fail to accomplish these goals. Such negativity in previous years has lead me to almost quiting the sport, World Juniors in Beijing 2006, my parents, who have supported me in more ways than they possibly could, spent a large sum of money on a flight for me to chase the time in the AAI National Championships. When I failed to qualify I was massively dissappointed, even though I just ran a personal best and gained a bronze medal in the National Seniors.

My recent changes in attitude have lead to some great improvements in my running, attitude towards the sport, and general approach to achieving success. I decided to forget about chasing qualifying times, and setting limits. I believe anyone can set big goals; however, even the biggest goals can set limits to your potential. The only goal I aim for now, is to reach my full potential in everyway possible, sometimes this is very good, and allows me to push hard in training, and run up to 80 miles per week, but other times its hard work, when I am forced to rest or relax if I have small problems. I decided to search long term into the sport, believing everything else will fall into place, If you go about your business well, and make good choices not only during training 2 hours per day, but also the other 22 hours in the day. You will no longer need to set targets and goals, they will find you, recently any targets I had set for a session, race or season, seem to change daily. It is not a bad thing to set targets, or to have dreams, but I would encourage that you do everything you can to move forward. Every athlete needs to learn to respect how difficult athletics is as a sport, so many factors like Lifestyle, Nutrition, Medical support, and Coaching are essential for elite performances. Consistent training and lifestyle can change everything for you.

Having now been running since primary 6, I believe I have been competing for 12 years, this is a very long time but in running years its very small. In September, I attended St Marys University in Twickenham , my goals were simple, to learn from the established athletes around me. Through watching and experimenting I now have a lifestyle that allows for big improvements. I regularly run between 70-80 miles per week, I have averaged 65 miles for the last 2 years( that includes weeks of due to recuperation or injuries).

At the university I changed coach from Mick Woods, to Nick Anderson, and I am now training with a very experienced athlete Andy Vernon. We regularly take part in Drills sessions, Body weight core work, and General dynamic stretching. These are sessions that I had not included in my training before, and websites do have sample programs for other athletes to see. The biggest change is having company for most runs, and sessions making the hard work a lot easier. I would advise anyone who trains alone, to find company for steady and long runs, most athletes can run at the same pace for these. Training didn't change dramatically at the university, mileage stayed the same, and runs became slower, sessions where longer, and tempos where introduced weekly, the amount of Threshold training I did each week went up to almost 60 minutes on some weeks. I believe this training is neglected by many athlete's and it has been a key ingredient to my improvements.

My ex coach Damien Gill, used to follow a program closely linked to what I do now, he encouraged myself and other North Belfast Harries to get a Vo2 max test which would help are training, after 6 weeks of threshold blocks with Damian I was 2nd in the Schools Internatial, (2005). I am still very stubborn and believe if I had continued this threshold training, I would be a much stronger athlete now.

I have some races set up for the next few weeks, including a 1500m on Wednesday 19th May, this can hopefully set me up for a fast 5000m in Manchester BMC, the Commonwealth Games standard is a fast 13.40.00, I can only hope training goes well, and the race is fast. I have also committed to racing a fast 10k race on track in June or July, and I will have a chance to run under the standard of 28.45.00. It would be a great achievement to recieve either; however, I believe I have done everything possible to run fast, and if I run slower than either of the times, Im sure I will still be happy and learn from the results. I try to analyse most of my races now, and if I have a good race I try to pinpoint any changes that lead to the improvements, and also look at further changes that could lead to better results in the future Sometimes too much pressure is put on reaching times each year, but if you continue to improve each year, the times you ran last year become irrelevant. The challenge most athletes are faced with is staying positive and not quiting one of the hardest sports there is.

Feel free to follow my results and training on Twitter, remember to live each day trying to improve your performances, for every good decision you make in your life daily, all the percentages will add up. A change in lifestyle and attitude towards the sport can create huge improvements, follow your dreams and good luck.

Stephen Scullion

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