The top veteran runner, who recently ran a 5k PB of 14:28, provides an insight into how he trains.
Notts AC’s Alastair Watson, one of the UK’s top V40 athletes, is competitive nationally in the senior ranks and values consistency for running improvements.
To be able to boast PBs of 14:28, 29:56 and 65:41 is an accolade most senior athletes would be proud of, but Watson has achieved those impressive marks as a veteran runner, smashing the 30 minute barrier at the Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs two years ago with a superb 29:36 PB along the way.
We spoke to the 40 year-old Nottingham ace recently about his continued racing improvements, and here we delve into his training diary to discover how he has achieved such significant success alongside working full time.
Fast Running: Could you tell us about your training regime?
Alastair Watson: The structure of my training stays the same throughout the year, with commute runs to the QMC hospital in Nottingham in the morning after school drop offs, and in the afternoon I run home on various routes from work.
I do a club session on Tuesdays and threshold work on Sunday. I take downtime for two weeks a year, with little running in July or August.
The weekday runs are all with a rucksack. I currently use a superb Inov8 24-litre bag, with varying weights.
A typical week’s training
AM: 4 miles easy at 6:50 pace
PM: 9 miles easy at 6:40 pace
AM: 4 miles easy at 7:00 pace
PM: 4 miles easy to track or road venue for the club session from work at 7:00 pace
Club sessions in the winter (Sep-March) are all on road. Typical sessions are: 5-6 x a mile off a minute recovery, aiming for 10k pace (4:50), 7-8 x 1k reps (at 5-10k pace) off a minute’s rest, and 3 x 1.75m on an undulating university campus loop off a minute rest (at 10k pace)
Club sessions in the summer (April-Sep) are on the track and normally at faster paces (typically 1500m-5k pace), usually in a ladder approach. Volume is typically lower than in the winter, and recoveries tend to be mixed depending on the pace of the reps.
A few sessions I did before my Highgate 10,000m race two years ago included: 3x1200m, 8x400m (hitting 71 secs for the 400m), then 66/67 secs for 400m, 6x1k off 90secs at 5k pace (2:52), 600m, 3×1200, 600m, and 1k, 600m x 4 sets. Trev is a big believer in ending sessions with strides – keeping form when shattered is not easy!
AM: 4 miles easy at 7:10 pace
PM: 8 miles easy at 7:00 pace. Tuesday’s session has normally kicked in, so this run is all about getting home on tired legs.
AM: 5-6 miles easy at 6:20 pace. Legs recovering. Head out for a slightly longer run as I don’t do the school run this day.
PM: 9 miles easy at 6:30 pace.
AM: 4 miles easy at 6:40 pace.
PM: 9 miles progressive run. Start at 6:50 pace and drop down to the last 5k at sub-6 pace (all a relative effort with a rucksack)
Rest or race. If I have a race on Saturdays my Friday afternoon run gets dropped. If I race on Sunday, the Friday afternoon run is easy.
AM: 10-12 miles including 4-6 miles tempo in the middle at 5:00-5:10 pace in Rushcliffe Country Park. Average 5:40-6:00 pace over the whole run. Most of my week runs are on road, so it’s good to get off-road.
Various days while the wife watches TV I do my stretching and rehab work on the lounge floor.
FR: What are your favourite and least favourite running sessions?
AW: My favourite sessions are the mile repeats, I could knock them out all day! All my tempos are on my own, so when the weather is foul it can be a struggle to get it done and just forfeit it and do a steadier longer run instead.
I do feel so much better when I have completed the session irrespective of time. 400m reps, however, are brutal – alas I’m not an anaerobic monster!
FR: What would you count as your biggest strength, and what area do you think you need to work on most?
AW: My biggest strength is my ability to hurt myself and get the best out of myself in race situations. A lot of that is down to confidence gained in training, and knowing my fitness levels.
Over the years I’ve run some horrible cross country courses in awful weather, and I do believe this has toughened me up. When I transfer my running over to Sutton Park or track meets, I have that internal wiring sorted!
My finishing speed is not great, but I’m not too bothered to correct this ‘weakness’ too much at this stage in my youth! I just have to run harder and faster from further out, and almost all of the young whipper snappers can’t get close.
FR: What is your greatest running achievement so far?
AW: I have been fortunate to have a few moments that hold dear, like winning team golds and individual Midland Championships.
My greatest achievement, though, has been to get a call-up for England in 2016 at the Home Countries cross country international in Falkirk after finishing 11th at the Castle Donnington National cross cross championships.
In the few years before then I had been beating England guys, and wondering what I needed to do to get picked.
In the end, I kept plugging away, entering the higher profile races and seeking the opportunities rather than waiting for them to come as that doesn’t necessarily happen, rightly or wrongly.