Cambridge & Coleridge’s Jack Gray has earned an England vest, run a 14:17 5k and an unofficial 66:52 half marathon off just 35 miles a week – here’s how he did it.

Most athletes at Gray’s elite level would think nothing of putting in regular back to back double training days, big Sunday long runs and lengthy tempo runs to achieve weekly mileages averaging 80-100m a week – or more.

Not so for the full-time transport planner from Birmingham, who now lives in Cambridge and is thriving under the mentorship of C&C’s Mark Vile and a growing group of volunteers, coaches and fellow athletes at the club, all improving in each other’s training company.

Incredibly, Gray’s top mileage hits the heady heights of just 30-40 miles a week, which he combines with cycling, strength and conditioning and core work.

His average winter’s training looks like this:

Monday: 5-6 mile lunchtime run, 5:50-6:00 min/mile pace

Tuesday: Road session such as 10 min, 10 min, 5 min (off 3 mins at 5k pace)

Wednesday: 5-6 mile lunchtime run (6:00-6:10)

Thursday: Alternating between shorter track work such as 14 x 400 (averaging 61/62s a lap), and a 6 mile tempo (5:00 min pace).

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Hill session such as 15 x 90s up/down, or 10min, 10min, 5min tempo

Sunday: 5-9 miles (5:50-6:00) depending on Saturday night.

Gray is keen to emphasise that his weekly mileage has been consistently low for some time, and has given us an greater insight into his training to highlight how his enviable racing achievements have been achieved on less than 40 miles a week.

Week commencing: 05/02/17
Mon: 4.9 miles (6:00), in parks.
Tues: 10 mins, 10 mins, 5 mins (@5k pace off 2.5 mins, 4:36 m/miles) plus 4 mile bike + 1 mile run / strides WU, 1.5 mi WD
Wed: 5ish miles (6:00ish, Casio worn)
Thurs: 4.2 miles (6:36/ mi)
Friday: 3.8 miles (6:08/ mi)
Sat: Rest
Sunday: Cross Cup in Belgium, 5.9 miles (4:58/ mi), 10 mins jog WU/WD (Casio watch)
Total: 28.9 miles (34.4ish, with warm up)

Week commencing: 12/02/17
Mon: 5 mile easy: 6:00 / mi
Tues: 3.8 miles (inc 3 x 1 min @ 3k pace)
Wed: Rest
Thurs: Armagh 5km: 14:17 plus 10 min WU/ 10min WD (Casio)
Friday: 6.6 mile grass (6:30 / mi)
Sat: 3.9 mile (7:16/ mi)
Sunday: 10 x 2 mins hills (3.9 miles @ 5:00 / mi) 3.8 WU/WD (Casio)
Total: 33.1 miles

Week commencing: 12/02/17
Mon: 6 miles (6:02/ mi)
Tues: 5 x 1km (2:46 average) off 1min plus 4mile bike + 1mile run / strides WU, 1.5 mi WD (Casio)
Wed: 5.5 miles (6:00 / mi)
Thurs: 4.0 (6:55 / mi) inc strides
Friday: Rest
Sat: National Cross 17th, 7 miles plus 10 min jog, run to Kings Cross 2.5 miles.
Sunday: 9.5 miles (6:00)
Total: 35 miles (41.5 with WU/WD)

Week commencing: 26/02/17 – Pre-Cambridge half marathon week and the start of a new training programme.
Nb: Weather too dodgy to cycle so had to run a few days, hence higher mileage.
Mon: 6.9m lunch run (5:54/mi)
Tues: Session – 4mins, 9, 9, 4, 3 (4:41 / mi – 6 miles) plus cycle + 2.5 / mi
Wed (snow): AM: Commute 5.8m (6:16 / mi) PM: 3.8m (6:14 / mi)
Thurs: 13 x 90 secs/ish (4:26 / mi) 3 miles WU/WD (Casio watch)
Fri: (2” snow) AM: 3.8m (6:07 / mi). PM: 3.9m (6:08 / mi)
Sat: rest / uni reunion in Brum
Sun: 13.1 miles (5:05/ mi) + 1 mile WU/WD, Cycle to mates.
Total: 47.3 miles (55 miles with WU/WD)

He explains his use of a simple Casio stopwatch for some of his miles by adding: “I don’t count my warm down, I know roughly how long it takes for my body to feel ready and it’s something I don’t need to quantify to the nth degree.

“So much of our sport and modern life is defined by numbers – sometimes it’s nice to not know!”

Other forms of exercise

Gray does supplement his running with other exercise, adding: “I cycle to work every day (about 40 miles a week), and I also try and play a different sport every couple of weeks, like football or squash.

“I am big on S&C and core work, and, living with a physiotherapist, I’d be told off if I wasn’t!”

Perhaps another reason he has to keep on top of his physio is that he suffers with median arcuate ligament syndrome, a condition that has seen him hospitalised and passing out with pain on occasions.

He explains: “It’s basically a restriction of blood flow at the celiac artery that causes massive cramp from Ischemia (a condition that leads to an inadequate blood supply to an organ or part of the body, especially the heart muscles).

“I had surgery a while ago and have a lovely four-inch scar to show for it. They cut the ligament that compresses the artery in order to move it.

“Although it’s better than it was, it reattached and so the operation was unsuccessful. My pain relief also went wrong, so I ended up in intensive care for three days. It was horrible!

“I wouldn’t go through surgery again, I don’t think my family would cope. Plus I never want to faint due to pain again. I’ll just deal with my hand and plan around it. I’ll try and get a CT scan every few years to check I’m not causing long-term damage. I currently have a light blue bruise on my stomach due to that, which is always disconcerting!”

Despite these obvious setbacks, he ensures every session he does is high quality and emphasises the need for company with these gut-wrenching efforts.

Training with a group

Of the group sessions he does with C&C he says: “I do love a horrible road session at the West Site in Cambridge – it’s basically a mile-long rectangle and it’s probably the fastest loop in the world.

“All the sessions we do there are great, and I try not to have a ‘go to ‘session to depend on, because I believe holistically training the body is crucial to success. If I had to pick one session it’d be 5 x 5mins off 2mins at 5km pace.

“I train 60% with others, and 40% alone. Training with others is essential during workouts in my eyes, but my steady runs are just squeezed in at work.”

The former BRAT athlete is also keen to point out that his high-quality training partners are key to his continuing success: “I’m lucky enough to have some crazy juniors to put me through my paces from C&C – watch out for Tom Keen (an 8:24.87 3000m athlete and South of England U20 cross country champion), he’s an animal!

“I also run with Phil O’Dell’s Cambridge University lads, and of course Josh Carr (who ran 8:10.53 for 3000m last year), who is going to run big this year.”

Perhaps the lesson to learn from talking to runners with such diverse training schedules as Gray and Lincoln Wellington AC’s Aaron Scott is that it’s essential to work out what works for you as an individual.

Some runners thrive on big miles, other achieve similar success off far less.

Following the infamous Cambridge half marathon, Fast Running spoke to the Cambridge & Coleridge runner and discovered the young talent has a lot more to offer than tabloid filling fodder. You can read Jack Gray’s feature here.

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