With his 42nd birthday on the horizon, James Stewart realises that as an older runner it can be ‘body over mind’ sometimes. So he went in search of those marginal gains.

Gulp! Did you hear that? That sharp intake of breath is me realising it is just 11 weeks until the 24 hour European Championships. Not because I am worried about where I am in my training or preparation. It’s more a reaction to how quickly time is moving.

And that is an age thing right? As you get older time flies. That’s the feeling some folks have. Of course, that ain’t true.

Seconds are seconds, minutes are minutes and EastEnders still feels like an hour long but is only 30 minutes when you watch it.

What causes this phenomenon for some is the accumulation of milestones and as you get older, there’s more of a history to influence the perception of the future.

Like, the other day when She Sells Sanctuary came on shuffle and I realised that it was 33 years old. That’s older than almost every other ‘class of 2018’ member!

I guess what I am saying is She Sells Sanctuary makes me feel as if time is passing quicker. I am 42 in April – I know I only look about 39 – and age is something I am acutely aware of in training and competition.

The last month has been about consolidation of winter training gains. I’ve actually lost a few sessions this week to a cold, which has been unfortunate timing but it has helped me rehab some tightness.

So, while I am running fewer miles and intensity is less, I am able to put that time towards some MOT work, which is always useful and shows the need to work on what you can when you can.

I’ve definitely benefited from it and shares in Kleenex might have rocketed this week due to my use.

The irony is, I ran outside in all of the cold, snow, and awful conditions the ‘beast from the east’ brought, and then I fell foul of the cold after a 33-mile indoor treadmill run!

Marginal gains

A key activity in the last month was undergoing some proper performance testing for the first time ever.

I mentioned my age earlier and it was about seeing where I am currently and to start to seek out potential marginal gains that I can shoot for over the next few years.

These days I use my fast twitch fibres most when I wake up in the middle of the night needing a pee. I reckon I could skittle Usain Bolt out of the way if I had to at 3am.

In the test room, Seamus wired me up to all sorts of paraphernalia with screens twitching and bleeping at me. There were red graphs, blue graphs and box plots.

Meanwhile, the mask made me sound like Bane from Batman and it was all I could do not to call Bruce Wayne out for a square go. Luckily for the Billionaire playboy, I was too preoccupied with an increasing pace and gradient to fight.

The information presented was fascinating. It reinforced a lot of what I already knew. Which is more reassuring than you can imagine.

But it gave insight into a few areas I will work on with Coach Paul and hopefully help give us an edge in Romania. I go back in May before the Champs and I am already thinking about what I can do to turn the dial on a couple of areas.

At my age, it is not always about improvement but can just be about arresting the inexorable decline that the years bring to the body.

The wear, the tear and the ageing. The bastard organic inevitability of it all. I’ve laughter lines even when I frown now. Yet, it’s no stress. It is only another consideration and opportunity.

Too much information can be a bad thing, paralysis through analysis as the saying goes. But in my case, I truly believe this could be the most valuable insight I get this year.

James Stewart is part of the ‘fast runners: class of 2018’ and this year will share his running journey every month. You can find out more about James here and further information on the ‘class of 2018’ can be found here.

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