Martin Duff speaks with former footballer-turned-runner Chris Greenwood
AW caught up with Chris Greenwood soon after he placed a fine second overall in the South of The Thames 7.5 miles championship race, despite being a veteran.
The 41-year-old is a new runner, although did have a minor running career at school, and is now a believer in running to and from work.
Athletics Weekly: What did you see as your best performance in your first full year as an M40?
Chris Greenwood: I was probably happiest with my two legs at the southern road relays in Aldershot. It was great to help the Kent AC M40 team achieve their first gold medal in this event. Other notable races were my 9:12 steeplechase and 30:39 for 10,000m, therefore achieving my 2014 targets. Although disappointed not to win overall in Nottingham, I was happy to retain my Vets International M40 title in an easy second place overall.
AW: Prior to becoming a proper veteran what was your most pleasing success?
CG: I haven’t been racing too long, so maybe my 71st in the 2013 National in Sunderland. The race has a lot of history and such a strong field, plus I always enjoy the challenge and nature of cross-country racing. The snowy conditions possibly helped but we were all running the same course and you have to adapt. I know 71st isn’t overly impressive, but certain results can be a catalyst for improvement and increased belief to push you on. I probably encountered a similar lift from the London Marathon in 2014, where I won the M40 title (in 2:27:59).
AW: Power of Ten only lists performances from 2010. Are you a completely new runner?
CG: I only started training and racing properly since joining Kent AC in 2010, so I’m a relative novice. This has probably helped given the lack of mileage in my legs, while also giving me the motivation to attain PBs every year.
I was a little obsessed with football growing up as a kid and played for 10 years, until I was 27, in the Altrincham and District Sunday League. Once I stopped, I occasionally joined a friend, Tony Greenwood, to run the odd fell race in Derbyshire for fun. I didn’t really train for them, but enjoyed the challenge and did okay. I then went travelling for two years and moved to London.
AW: How about when you were at school?
CG: I enjoyed cross country at school and represented Trafford once but didn’t receive any encouragement from memory and stuck with football. It may have been different had someone shown some interest, so my endurance was initially utilised on a football pitch instead.
AW: All of your best performances have been set in the past year, so does this mean there is more to come?
CG: I really hope I can push on again this year. I’m highly motivated and an increased mileage base for the Manchester Marathon on April 19 should help me take another step. Realistically I probably have at least a couple more years of improvement to come, as the likes of Ian Hudspith and Steve Way indicate, age isn’t necessarily the catalyst for decline.
“as the likes of Ian Hudspith and Steve Way indicate, age isn’t necessarily the catalyst for decline”
AW: Can you describe a typical week’s training?
CG: My training isn’t overly structured and I tend to run to feel. I’m not always sure about the route or pace beforehand, so can find myself really pushing on when I’m supposed to be resting.
My schedule for the Southern Masters in December was:
Sun: 15.2 miles @ 5:56 per mile pace (1:30.12). Had planned 6:20, but felt relaxed.
Mon: 8.1 miles @ 6:04 (49:10).
Tues: (am) 3 miles @ 6:22 (19:24). (pm) 3 miles @ 6:31 warm up and then 5 miles @ 5:11 (2km reps x 4 with 2min recovery on the road). 2 mile warm down @ 7:00.
Wed: (am) 11 miles @ 6:22. (pm) work Christmas party, hence morning run.
Thurs: 2 miles warm up @ 7:00min pace. Then 8 miles @ 5:15 (5 x 1.7-mile lap of Battersea Park). 2 mile warm down @ 7:10.
Fri: 3 miles @ 6:30 with 45sec strides x 4.
Sat: SEAA Masters Cross Country Oxford. 1st place. 6 miles @ 5:38. Included 2.5 mile warm up @ 6:45 and 2.5 warm down at 7:00min mile pace.
Weekly total: 73 miles.
My midweek runs are usually my commute with a bag (except for Tuesday and Thursday evening sessions).
AW: With regard to veteran running how has the organisation been at the events you have contested?
CG: The vet races are well organised, although they sometimes clash with other events and club commitments. I think there is a slight stigma associated to them in relation to quality for some. This probably applies to M40 athletes, who may have been racing at a much higher level in their earlier years. I personally enjoy them, having entered the sport quite late and they offer a chance to represent my country, compete against my peers and meet some great people.
AW: You were beaten by an M35 in the International. Do you think it is right that men as young as 35 are considered masters?
CG: I’m not sure age 35 is representative of veteran status, because you appear to be in your peak endurance years around this age. However, the 2013 Veteran International was won overall by Tim Hartley who is an M45.
AW: What advice would you give to new runners?
CG: I usually advise caution for new runners – they should remember to allow their body time to adjust to the extra miles. Definitely find a good training group, or club, because you’ll learn about training and be inspired. The key is racing, though, because running is about competition and racing allows you to improve quickly.