One of my most regular customers is Graeme Tiffany (pictured above). Graeme is a very keen fell runner, outdoor pursuits specialist, and an all round good bloke! He also writes and presents on youth work and it’s related issues. He gave me a copy of this feature he wrote called ‘Winning at 50′ and so I thought I’d share it with you all below, so enjoy the read.
Recently I won the Short Score class of the Original Mountain Marathon in the Brecon Beacons. And I’m 50. Now an explanation of how a ‘middle-of-the-packer’ can achieve such a thing. Certainly, I’m competitive in my outlook, and that helps, but for me that simply means doing the best I can. Of course, we can all try and do the best we can within our own capabilities but then if you are that bit more competitive, as I am, you have to play canny also. What that means is that you have to pick races that offer challenges beyond the athletic. In short, you’ve got to find a way of compensating for a lack of natural athletic talent.
For me that’s where the OMM comes in. Granted I’ve got some experience also, this year’s was my 19th over a 25 year period. And experience is one of the compensatory mechanisms I’m talking about. Next up is the technical side. In the OMM, like in most mountain marathons, you’ve got to navigate, which means not just finding your way but finding a good way: route-finding if you want a technical name. And in some classes of the OMM (all the score classes) you need strategy also, as the format is based on accumulating as many points as possible from a range of checkpoints with a range of values within a given time. The Short Score is five hours on Saturday and four hours on Sunday; late back and you get penalised. But there’s no benefit in finishing early; you have to try to use your time as best you can.
This two-day reality also intimates a further dimension: you’ve got to take a tent with you and camp overnight, as well as a range of other equipment itemised on a mandatory kit list. So knowing a bit about kit, and how to use it, gets you somewhere also. On this point, you’d be surprised how many teams never set off on Sunday morning because they had such a distressing Saturday night. Which, in other words, means different folk have different abilities to look after themselves.
You might have worked out that there is a theme emerging here. In the OMM there’s a shed load of stuff that needs to be sorted out beyond the athletic. Therein the attraction of this event: basically, if you can get all the other elements working together, running becomes only part of the game. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve still got to run but, if you can keep going, keep grafting, and not do a whole load of stopping (try to read your map when running on easier terrain is the advice) you’re always going to do pretty well.
And then you need a bit of luck (or another’s bad luck). In our case, the guys who were leading on day 1 missed a check point on Sunday morning that, had they got it, would have given them the edge. But there you go; I’ve been up there, or thereabouts, quite a few times over the years, and never got it quite right. Maybe it was my time.
And finally there’s the hard fact that some courses are easier than others. So, on this count let me dispel any prospect of the rumour mill working overtime. I did do the shortest of the Score classes (even though my history is of doing the hardest course I think I can cope with). Which was precisely the case this year; the choice was a response to battering me old back on Fairfield in a moment of madness when I jumped off a not insubstantial rock in pursuit of a few seconds advantage in the English Championship race. Cost me months, and a few quid also. Here another critical point: you need to make an investment, not just in terms of training but looking after your body. So a big thanks to my physios, my osteopath and Jim Mason, my Sports Massage Therapist, who did an amazing job in both treating me and preparing me for competition. Sometimes I’ve said I wouldn’t wish Jim’s hands on my worst enemies, but bear with the challenges of sports massage and you’ll be amazed at what it can do, especially for an oldie. Go for maintenance as well as when you’re crook, is my advice. And go regular.
Therein perhaps a summary point; it’s the rule of small margins: get your kit right; know how to use it; navigate and route find well (and pray for bad weather as it tends to slow the young, athletic, lads down); have a good strategic plan (and execute it well); eat well; think straight; learn to suffer; don’t stop; and get the professionals to help you; and, oh, put some graft into your running. And don’t jump off small cliffs. And anything is possible.
Thanks to me old mate and team mate, Scouse, also for putting up with me over the weekend.
(courtesy of Graeme Tiffany)
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