Hitting 60 is usually the time to ease back on the pace of life, but as David Lowes found out, that doesn’t apply to the extraordinary Martin Rees
Martin Rees has long been known as one of the best veteran runners in the country and recently turning 60 has given him a new lease of life. Having this year set world records in his M60 (60-64) age group at half-marathon (71:32), 10 miles (55:47) and 10km (32:54), the Les Croupiers athlete continues to astound.
His half-marathon in Bath in March is quicker than anyone over the age of 46 has achieved in the UK this year. On the age-grading scale, it is 102.3% and worth the same as a 57:52 half by a 25-year-old. But what does it take to still be producing such incredible times at 40 years older than many of the world’s best and has he had to adapt his training as he has grown older?
Rees currently covers around 70 miles a week in training, including one long run of 14 to 16 miles plus two hard sessions, which usually include 5x90sec and 5x45sec at almost flat-out with 1min recovery and 6x3min at 5:10/5:15 per mile pace with 3min recovery or 8-10×2 min at 5:00 per mile with 2min recovery. He also does 4×1 mile at 5:20/5:25 per mile.
Rees says: “I’ll mix and match those with a tempo or pyramid session and use the rest of the week as recovery runs.” Clearly, those sessions would embarrass many good club runners 30-40 years younger. He adds: “I picked up those sessions from one of the old Cliﬀ Temple manuals many years ago and have more or less used these sessions since then. I read once that Paula Radcliffe always liked to include 6x3min in her training schedule throughout the year. I’m training the same now as when I was in my forties.”
The Welshman says: “I started running in 1990 at the age of 37 when a mate of mine I used to run with at school 20 years previously asked me if l’d like to run with him in a local 10km at Cornelly in South Wales. It took him two months to persuade me to run and I reluctantly went along after hardly any training and we both ran 44 minutes.
“We both really enjoyed the run and then we started limited training going out for runs of 30 minutes about four times a week. It was another mate at work, who ran for Neath Harriers, who saw we were interested in running and asked us if we would like to come along and join in with them.”
From then on they started doing longer runs at the club and after a while began doing some harder sessions on a Tuesday evening. This was something completely foreign to them, running at a much faster pace and as Rees adds: “I was always at the back end of the group in the first couple of weeks, but I enjoyed it and within six months I had slowly progressed to move my way to the front of the group. After about 12-18 months I became their quickest runner and held all the club records!”
The man from Port Talbot started off by gaining advice on training and racing from the coaches at Neath, but he quickly realised that he had the potential to become really good and a local hero of his, Shaun Tobin, who was captain of Swansea Harriers, asked him if he’d like to go along and do some sessions with them while still remaining a Neath member.
He says: “I went along and was amazed by the difference in speed in their sessions. The coach there was George Edwards and over the years he gave me loads of advice. The runners that were with Swansea at the time included the fantastic pair of Ian Hamer and Nigel Adams and included so many other brilliant runners.
“My training developed greatly and I raced on average two to three times a month. There seemed to be many more distance races around then, like the Woking 10, Erewash 10 and Barnsley 10km. I remember the latter when Jon Brown ran 28:05 on a very hard course and that amazed me.”
Rees rates three races that he did in 1996 as special to him. He says: “I was probably running at my absolute best and I was running around 30:20 for all the 10km races that I ran in. There were so many runners around who were knocking out the same times.
“However, I did 14:20 over 5000m on the track at Watford in the British League and I remember being on the start-line looking around and at the likes of Paul Larkins, Dave Heath and Wayne Oxborough. They were blokes I’d only read about in AW and I was thinking, ‘I’m in trouble here!’ I hung on though, and came away with what I thought was a great time. I also ran 49:23 at the Woking 10 and 65:37 in the Bristol Half-marathon and those races were stand-out performances for me.”
Speaking of future goals, he says: “Fitness and injuries prevailing, my goals for this year are simple. I would like to have a go at all of the records from 1500m upwards, culminating with running the vets cross-country international in north Wales in November.”
After recent retirement from the Port Talbot steelworks where he worked for 33 years, he hopes to have time to train better, but points out: “I may not get much quicker now as nature will dictate that, but it will be a luxury to do sessions without working 12-hour night shifts. My training is done on an eight-day cycle, so I have a day off every week and make sure my recovery runs are fairly easy.”
With a glint in his eyes, he says: “I see myself competing for as long as possible and particularly if my health and fitness allow me to do so. I know you can’t defy nature, but my big objective is to limit the damage done by the advancing years for as long as possible!”
RECENT TRAINING WEEK AT 60
» Monday: 8 miles easy.
» Tuesday: Fartlek: 2x4min at 5:20/mile; 2x3min at 5:10/mile; 2x2min at 5:00/mile; 2x1min at 100% (2min recovery between efforts).
» Wednesday: (am) 40min recovery run (6:30-7:00/mile). (pm) 30min recovery run (6:30-7:00/mile).
» Thursday: 8 miles easy (6:30-7:00/mile).
» Friday: Tempo: 8 miles at approximately 5:50/mile (hilly).
» Saturday: (am) 40min recovery run (6:30-7:00/mile). (pm) 30min recovery run (6:30-7:00/mile).
» Sunday: 17 miles steady (6:00-6:30/mile).
» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes