Chris Heather

Chris Heather

Runner and SOAR x TRY 5k PB Team Member

Chris participated in our SOAR x TRY 5k PB training programme throughout June and July of 2018. The programme took 20 everyday runners under the coaching wing of Olympian Matt Yates, and elite coach Barry Elwell for 8 weeks of dedicated professional training as part of a team. The aim of which was to whip the participants into 5k PB shape by the end. We caught up with Chris about his experiences.

What appealed to you about the SOAR x TRY 5k Programme, and what led you to sign-up?
I was attracted to having some running coaching for the first time, and the feedback I had read for the previous cross-country training was really positive, so after (nervously) checking that my times were good enough, I committed to the programme. 

How have you found the programme, what have been your highlights and how does it differ to the training you've done in the past?
I had never done any properly structured training and so the programme was unlike anything I had previously experienced. We were treated like proper athletes by elite level coaches, and that obviously required a step change in my efforts as well as some changes to my lifestyle and nutrition. The Monday night sessions at the London Marathon Community Track were physically and mentally demanding but the buzz from them lasted 24 hours. Matt and Barry cleverly designed sessions so that runners of varying speeds could effectively train with and compete against each other, and between them they dispensed enough advice and anecdotes on stretching, hydration, warming-up, strength, conditioning, form and tactics to write a book. 

Do you have a favourite session, or element to the training?
I loved being on the track and especially the short reps. Learning to run at speed was a new sensation after all the plodding I had done before. 

And a least favourite, or perhaps 'most feared'?
Running 950m laps of the Olympic Stadium in a handicapped pursuit race was probably the most feared, but, like most things which are tough, it was obviously good for us. The worst bit was finishing a lap, then being told to do it again, but 10 seconds quicker. 

How do you feel it's changed you as a runner?
I’ve learned how to run with a proper form, and how to keep it when I’m exhausted. I’ve also learned to push myself harder, and how to stay focussed throughout a race. I learned about race pacing the hard way from the SOAR Mile. 

What are your top 3 takeaways from the programme which you'll implement in your own training?

The importance of core strength.

Quality of training matters more than mileage. 

Pacing a race in advance by breaking it down into sections and anticipating where the hard bits will be.

What's next for you in terms of racing and training?
I’m doing another 5k in the autumn, where I hope to improve further on my PB. I’d like to find another open mile race and perhaps do a half marathon in the spring. In training I’ll try to repeat some of the sessions from this programme, hopefully at the London Marathon Community Track with some of the team. The team spirit was really good and I hope we will continue to train together. 

And last but not least, what's your favourite piece of SOAR kit, and why?
My Softshell. The guys from SOAR hand-delivered it during the Beast from the East so I could go for a run in a snowstorm. I’ve never been cosier on a winter run, and the built-in mitts keep my hands toasty. 

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