The traning that led to a breakthrough for the British middle-distance runner
Ross Murray has every reason to take a flexible approach to his training – it is a method that has proved a successful one of late. “I have had so many years of injuries that I prefer not to have too much structure in my training,” he explains.
“I listen to my body and do what I feel I need to do on that particular day. The biggest thing for me is to run how I feel and just enjoy what I am doing.”
The 21-year-old has improved nearly nine seconds on his pre-season PB in the 1500m. He first took a three-second chunk off his best with 3:40.34 in Stretford, improved by another four seconds in Manchester with 3:36.69 then reduced his PB further with a 3:34.76 clocking in Hengelo.
Studying sports science at St Mary’s and living in the London Marathon-supported house backing on to the university, Murray is not short of world-class training partners nor fantastic facilities and places to train. Indeed, world indoor 800m bronze medallist Andrew Osagie and 2009 world 1500m semi-finalist James Brewer are also part of the squad guided by coach Craig Winrow.
However, Murray believes he has found what works for him in terms of training and that often means training by himself. “I don’t actually train that much with Andrew or James as we all train differently and do what is best for us,” reveals Murray, who does most of his training runs in Bushy Park and Richmond Park, but uses the track and gym on-site.
“I tend to join in with the other university lads for track sessions, but for aerobic runs and longer sessions if I wake up and want to run with someone, I will text them, but very often I like the freedom of running on my own.”
His training works on a three-week cycle, incorporating two weeks of hard training followed by one easy week. Although he admits that he works very hard in sessions, he does not let himself get stressed about hitting times and believes that this relaxed attitude to his training enables him to enjoy it and get more from it.
Rather than going all-out in his training day in, day out, he likes to keep everything controlled and typically does his steady runs at 7:30 pace, in order to keep his body in one piece, find consistency and be ready to give his all when it matters.
In the winter months he typically runs about 70 miles/week, including one endurance track session totalling around 8km or a hill session and two tempo-type training sessions in Bushy Park. However, he is more than willing to reveal what he considers to be his biggest training secret. “I don’t take myself too seriously,” he says with a grin.
“Many people get the wrong impression and think that I am not taking my training seriously enough, but I know how to push myself when I’m actually training. I am known as the joker of the training group and the banter before and after sessions ensures I don’t get too stressed and I enjoy what I am doing. If I am enjoying training and working hard, running well will come.”
The set-up is clearly working for the 2009 European junior 1500m sixth-placer. “Before this year I wouldn’t have believed I could run that fast,” he says. “My 3:36 gave me loads of confidence going into Hengelo, as I knew in a higher-quality race and in warmer conditions I could go faster.”
His training in the week prior to Hengelo was far from perfect though, and he is quietly confident that there is more to come. He says: “I got bitten about five days before the race (Hengelo) and my foot swelled up really dramatically. I couldn’t really train properly that week and had to cut my final track session short. Fortunately, it improved enough for me to race, but it wasn’t the best preparation. I’m not thinking about how fast I can go. I will just keep doing what I am doing and try to get in some fast races.”
Murray also credits his training background and strong aerobic base, which had been nurtured by John Stephenson in the North East since he was 10. “This level of fitness doesn’t come overnight,” he explains. “I have been lucky in that I have always had a good coach and I have trained hard for many years.
“Now I know how my running should feel, as it has been ingrained in me from a young age and therefore I can take more control of how I should be training. Craig does not force a particular type of training on me, but we work together to find what works for me at that time and John is still actively involved, acting as a kind of mentor.”
After enduring a series of injuries through 2010 and 2011, he only started training properly in December 2011. “This time last year I was just a fat boy who had become disillusioned with the sport due to injuries!” he says. “I was on the verge of quitting. I started back running on my own just for the fun of it and because it is what I have done since I was a kid.
“As I got fitter, the enjoyment came back and I began pushing myself more and eventually got back into sessions and full training. Now I am running well, my love for training has come back.”
Typical week in winter
(am) 45min run (7:30/mile)
(am) Bushy Park. 25min volume such as: 10min tempo, 5x3min with 90sec recovery. Pace depending on how feeling, but keeps it comfortable and typically about 5:10/mile.
(pm) 30min run (7:30/mile).
(am) 40min run (7:30/mile)
(pm) 30min run (7:30/mile). Upper-body weights in gym including: bench press 24kg in each hand, curls 12kg, shoulder press 14kg, bench fly 14kg, tricep press 10kg, curls with bar 25kg
(am) Bushy Park. Tempo running such as 3x10min (5:10/mile pace) with 1min recovery
(pm) 30min run (7:30/mile)
30min run (7:30/mile)
Track session involving long endurance such as three sets of 1200m, 1000m, 800m with 90sec recovery (pace strong and controlled depending on how feeling) or hills – 4x5min loops incorporating a flat section and a long climb + 8x45sec uphill – all with jog-down recovery.
90min run (7:30/mile)