Older Doesn't Mean Slower!

We love to share the stories behind our awesome runners, and this one is a treat. This is Trev, who is the first runner that Coach Chris ever coached, and his dad!  

Trev is now a spritely 65 years old and has run for recreation and fitness for over 30 years, completing 6 marathons (all of them under 4hrs 15 mins), over 20 half marathons, plus many other shorter races road and trail races.  Over a 14 week period, he was coached and prepared for the Great North Run half marathon, which takes place in his home town of Newcastle (UK) in mid September every year.

After he successfully ran his best half marathon time in 7 years (2:06:32), Coach Chris asked him to jot down his side of the story, and thought it would be great to share his unedited response…

As coaches, we love seeing people who are seasoned runners, still learning, improving and achieving new goals. Just shows that older doesn’t mean slower!!


“My times for the Great North Run have gradually got slower, from a best time of 1 hour 50 minutes about 12 years ago to 2 hours 17 minutes 2 years ago. My training was always a bit sporadic and never followed any structured plan. I have never done interval training, hill work or any other speed work or ran to a specific time on a watch – I simply just ran varying distances at the pace I felt like. I picked up an injury and had knee surgery about 7 years ago and this meant less frequent running and shorter distances to avoid a painful knee. So I started mountain biking and more recently road biking and combine these with my running and walking. But about 3 or 4 years ago, I noticed a change in that I started to ‘hit the wall’ at about 14-15km in any longer runs I did. After a bit of research, I decided it was nutrition related and added in an energy sports drink and energy gels when I was running more than 11km. This has worked and stopped the dreaded lack of energy at 14 to 15km!

The last 3 months

However, using my usual training regime above, plus the energy supplements I was still pretty much a one pace runner and my half marathon time only improved a little. I was determined not to accept the fact that my times would just keep on declining and felt that there was something I could do about it. Enter Coach Chris who listened to my history, understood my objectives and agreed that I could do better!  He generated a tailored plan with varied training sessions that a) fitted my agenda b) handled my ‘frailties’ c) built my confidence and d) added new elements to my training that I had never experienced. After almost every session, I would feedback how it went, any issues etc. and Chris advised and adjusted the plan if necessary. For example, initially I found that I could not sustain a tempo run of 5:30 min/km with only a 1.5 km warm up. My sense was that I needed more time to warm up and so we adapted the plan so that I had a 3km warm up before the tempo session and this worked well. In this way, we incorporated tempo runs, intervals and hill sessions as well as slower longer runs and biking sessions so that I gradually increased the workload without injury. I even began to enjoy the days for these sometimes quite hard sessions!

The Race

The Great North Run is the biggest participation half marathon in the world. There were 50,000 entrants this year.  It is an undulating course, all on roads with no massive hills but still quite tough. My time in 2014 was 2:11:22 seconds and my objective for this year was to knock 5 minutes off this time. My start group was in the middle of the pack and it took me nearly 25 minutes after the elite start to cross the starting line and begin running. Obviously there are many many runners all around you and running a steady pace is very difficult under these conditions – there are constant changes of pace and direction to avoid slower runners etc. It was a warm sunny day too – atypical conditions for the North East and not ideal for distance racing. Nevertheless the first seven miles went very well and according to plan. My pace varied a little due to the crowds and hills and so fell a little behind plan as the miles progressed. However, I was feeling strong and knew I could go faster if I could just find some room! I did my last long mile along the sea front at South Shields in 9 minutes and finished with a time of 2:06:32 – just short of a 5 minute reduction in my time!

After the race

I looked up the statistics – I had not only improved by almost 5 minutes, I had moved up to 15,135th from 18,486th (out of 41,000 runners who finished) and was 214th in my age gender group – an improvement of 40 positions!

My recovery was quick and easy – I ran again on the Thursday and Saturday after the race.

My conclusions are:

  1. I could have done a faster time in a less busy race

  2. I enjoyed the variety of training

  3. I can run faster than I thought for longer periods than I thought

  4. I don’t have to accept slower times as being inevitable!

  5. I would never have done this without the help of a dedicated coach who encouraged and challenged me, while adapting to the needs of my more elderly physique!

  6. I will definitely do the same again (plus more!) next year!