Kelvin Broad Interview

September 18, 2011 0

© Copyright – 2009 – Athletics Illustrated

The first of two long runs I had done with Kelvin Broad were over 32 kilometres long (20 miles) long and included a group of fellow runners of varying abilities (I was the most variable of all). We ran through the mossy rain forest outside of Victoria, British Columbia over hills and through chest-deep Salal. I think we crawled through a blackberry bush and witnessed the collapse of a bridge, while our run leader (Bob) stood knee-deep in the creek wearing an ear-to-ear smile.

Later on during the run – sometime after the 28 km mark or so and as I began to fade – I tossed the fear of becoming lost, as Broad orated (like Martin Scorsese) in his high-timbre, Kiwi accent. No matter how far back I dropped, I could hear the rapid-fire ramblings. Oh sure I am less capable of a runner and certainly wasn’t at the peak of fitness, but he talked the entire three hours! He was an audible beacon – a human GPS!

Broad has won the Calgary Marathon eight consecutive times and the Royal Victoria Marathon five consecutive. As a staunch Lydiard method advocate, a Canadian Mountain Team Director and a Professor, I thought it would be best to encapsulate what he might have said on that run to share with the rest of the running world. Because it is impossible to remember three hours of machine-gun, rapid-fire dialogue, here follows an actual interview.

Christopher Kelsall: You won the Royal Victoria Marathon (RVM) 5 consecutive times. Any thought in coming back to win it as a master.

Kelvin Broad: I tried winning the RVM as a master a few years ago and I ran like a rank amateur and paid the price – my poorest tactical marathon ever. Why you ask? Because I forgot to have respect for the distance and started reacting too much to what others were doing in the race; very poor form on my part.

However, I certainly have a soft spot for the RVM as I have had some wonderful experiences at the event and made some lifelong friends as a result. If I were to come back I would certainly come prepared. Now there is native art on the sweatshirt again the pull of the event is all the more for me. I have the five consecutive win record there now and it may go some time. I am pleased with that achievement because it demonstrates consistency however, I didn’t go out to Victoria with that in mind. I ran Victoria because I liked the course and it fitted in well with the races available in and around Calgary at the time. My first race there was also maybe the best marathon of my career so it was hard not to keep coming back.

CK: You’ve run quite a few standard marathons however; it appears your main running distraction is actually mountain running. How did you get on to mountain running?

KB: I would suggest that off-road type running is my passion. But I have always trained off-road primarily anyway. Even when preparing for standard road marathons I would say that 60-70% of my training would still be off road – not necessarily rough terrain, but not tarmac.

I got into mountain running originally in New Zealand because where I lived, in the city of Dunedin, was in a harbour town surrounded by 800m -1000m peaks and Sunday runs often took in a few of these on a regular basis. Thus mountain running was a logical extension of our training. I also found I had a propensity for the uphill only discipline.

CK: Growing up on Dunedin, NZ, who where your running heroes?

KB: If you have some New Zealand readers this will be a real blast from the past and bring back a few good memories. I began running just at the end of what had been a golden era for distance running in Dunedin and our province of Otago. So with this in mind there were plenty of heroes around. Stuart Melville was one. He was the New Zealand 800m (1974) 1,500m (1975 and 1976) champion, but was also a fierce competitor in the winter cross-country season too. Chip Dunkley was another (1979 NZ Cross Country Champion who was stupidly left off the team for the World Cross Country Championships held in Limerick in 1980) hero who ran hard, but the minute the race was over was as personable as could be. Obviously the stars of the era were Walker, Quax, Dixon and the like, but Chip and Stuart were guys you saw week in and week out at local track and cross-country races and later on were fellow competitors and team members. They were so supportive and always had words of encouragement.

CK: It seems you move around a lot. As far as I can count, you have lived in Flagstaff, AZ, Calgary, AB, Victoria, BC recently you have been in Cardiff I think? And of course you are a Kiwi. Where is your next destination?

KB: We are in Wales at the moment (not quite Cardiff) in a rural location. Where we go to next? I don’t know. I have just read Richard Askwith’s Feet in the Clouds: A tale of fell-running and obsession and it has certainly whetted my appetite to get into a few fell races here. I have run a couple since coming here and they are great social events and the races and racers are as tough as nails. These races fit in well with the sheepdog trialing as well because there is often a fell race and a sheepdog trial in the same area. On one occasion the sheepdog trial stopped while the runners in the fell race ran through the middle of the trial field on the route to the hill.

CK: Can you tell me more about Sheepdog trialing?

KB: Sheepdog trialing is something I have gotten into by chance. Angie was the one who was originally interested in the pursuit and I went off to England with her when she went to get her first dog – I was essentially there for the holiday and a bit of fell running if I got the chance. We ended up both coming back with dogs. There are similarities and differences between dog trialling and running. Both require consistency and focus in your training – a fit dog does better at trials. I enjoy the fact that I now have two training partners, Tina and Blade (my sheepdogs) who never complain about the pace and will go up and down any of the god-forsaken routes I choose. It is hard to find training partners like that. Dave Burke my training partner from my Canmore days was one of the few. Sheepdog trialing is very different from the somewhat solitary existence of the marathon runner in that you must build a relationship with your other team member and work together to achieve the goal of getting 4 or 5 sheep successfully around the course. The thing I like best about border collies is they just love to run, they revel in it, just the way I like to think humans should. As Filbert Bayi (1974 Commonwealth Games 1500m gold medalist and world 1500m and mile record holder) said – “I run like the wind blows and the water flows”.

CK: Is your main activity outside of running, raising and training sheepdogs?

KB: As a university professor I am busy with teaching on-line for the University of Calgary and for Northern Arizona University. My general field is education and focus upon literacy development.

On Mountain Running

CK: Do you think it’s about time the IAAF finally recognized mountain running, legitimizing the sport more, by allowing it to carry a proper championship name?

KB: It is actually well past time. However, the biggest detriment to this change, which has now occurred, is that Britain must now compete as a single nation rather than as the four home nations (Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales). I would have liked to see this grandfathered in over 4-5 years both to maintain the depth of competition from having all four teams in the WMRT that these teams bring. I think recognition by the IAAF of the WMRT as a championship may bring a little more focus from some new countries. Other countries, like Canada, will continue to simply pooh, pooh the event completely despite the wonderful venue for international competition that the WMRT could offer Canadian athletes.

CK: Who in Canada pooh, poohs mountain running?

KB: I spent 8 years banging my head against the ‘brick wall’ we call Athletics Canada. I had support from the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) (through the contacts I had made while on the New Zealand Mountain running team) to develop a Canadian presence. The AC attitude to Mountain Running was that it was just another drain on resources rather than an opportunity for athletes. I sent message after message to Martin Goulet attempting to dialogue about the value participation in the World Trophy would have for many Canadian distance athletes. This constantly fell on deaf ears. We at the CTMRA (an association Angie and I set up to allow us to select athletes to go to the World Trophy) had to consider ourselves blessed that Joanne Mortimor and Martin Goulet would ‘let us’ get on with the job of recruiting athletes to compete at NACAC and World Trophy events.

Then once we did get some athletes at the World Trophy (2001) we had instant success. Val Chowaniec of Edmonton (Royal Victoria Marathon Race Record Holder) finished 9th at the World Trophy. The pity is that Val received no recognition from Athletics Canada in a year where Canadian athletes could only achieve three top 8 performances at the IAAF World Championships when they were held on home ground in Edmonton. The little spots of success (Adrian Lambert, Jason Loutitt, Katrina Driver, Geoff Williamson) have continued, but Athletics Canada has continued to keep the sport at arms length. It is pitiful really given that we have such great training environments for this discipline and a number of athletes who have demonstrated a propensity for the sport.

The other side is that many athletes consider the World Trophy as a ‘soft’ event because athletes who may be relatively average at say 10km sometimes excel in Mountain races. Thus, I have had (much faster) athletes who when I approach them assert that the WMRT is really below them. We were fortunate that Jono (Jonathan Wyatt) was in Vancouver off and on for a while and he dispelled a few myths.

CK: If Athletics Canada did not recognise the discipline of mountain running, how is it that they possessed jurisdiction over letting you recruit athletes?

KB: That is just how the organization of athletics works in the IAAF (and it is how it should be) in that they want to work with a single organization for each country. Otherwise it would become unmanageable for the IAAF to conduct communications and it would simply fracture the sport. At the end of the day AC did a service to Mountain Running because they could have said no and not allowed a Canadian presence at all. Those working for Mountain Running in Canada today just have to keep the spark alive that we will find another athlete like Val Chowaniec who will feel the pull of mountain running and be a little blessing for the sport in Canada. There are a few athletes around (e.g. Kristina Rody, Graham Cocksedge) who have certainly demonstrated a propensity for mountain running.

CK: What would it take to get AC to realize the value of mountain running?

KB: I am not really sure. The cross over from mountain running to other distance running disciplines is obvious – to me anyway. There are numerous athletes who do well in the World XC who also do well in the WMRT. Also mountain running and marathon running fit well together and the preparation is actually very similar for the two. Both Jono and Anna Pichrtova had successful runs in the Athens Olympic marathon and came back two weeks later to finish first and second respectively at the WMRT in Italy. It will take a well-known coach or two to say yes to their athletes going to the WMRT and working with them toward that goal.

CK: Now that the IAAF recognize mountain running, do you think Athletics Canada will follow suit?

KB: It won’t happen overnight. The IAAF has always recognized mountain running. To begin with this was through the Cross Country committee of the IAAF and this has now developed to full championship level. AC will continue to recognize Mountain Running in name only. At the moment AC has trouble making up its mind whether to send a team to the World XC so there isn’t too much hope for any change in their thinking toward mountain running. It will take a core of athletes and a coach/administrator or two to keep soldiering on under their own steam and seek out the athlete/s who might make the big breakthrough and thus increase interest on the part of other athletes. This is really what happened with the NZ Mountain running team in the mid 90’s with some modest success, but that was enough to get some better athletes interested like Jono, Melissa Moon, Shireen Crumpton, Phil Costley. The rest is history with New Zealand having multiple individual and team medals (24 medals in all – so it is not just Jono) over the last 10 years.

On Training

CK: I know you are a true Lydiard method advocate having been straightened out by you a few times when you were in Victoria and rightly so. That I know of, you won something like 13 marathons in 8 years. How many would you have won if you weren’t using periodization in your training?

KB: The short answer is I probably wouldn’t have won any and I certainly would not have been as consistent. Periodization is essentially the foundation for successful competitive marathons. If one doesn’t do this, training becomes just a disorganized smorgasbord of running that is often dictated by what your training group/mates, the weather or whatever is doing. Periodization requires a concerted focus and discipline along with some level of faith that sticking with the program will pay dividends. In this day and age of “10 weeks to a faster marathon” type headlines (that are pretty much useless) it is hard to promote an expectation for athletes to focus on a single event for six or more months.

CK: Do you think this mentality is changing at all?

KB: I think this mentality is changing at the top so we are beginning to get a lot more depth coming back to distance running. For example, Canada’s half marathon rankings this year I think are a lot deeper. The transferral hasn’t quite got to the marathon yet, but this may happen.  Although I am preaching to the converted, I would say this all depends on the focus of athletes really training for a marathon. I have found that there is not enough respect for the marathon distance. We have athletes who can run 1:05-1:06 who think that 2:15 will be ‘easy’ (and it should be) but don’t do the extra work required to make this happen.

CK: Besides periodization does this lack of the ‘extra work’ you refer to manifest itself mostly in low mileage training and the fast track approach you alluded to earlier?

KB: I don’t think the fast track approach mentioned earlier effects the athletes at the top end. I think they would laugh as much as I do at the “10 weeks to a fast marathon” by lines. It is about the mileage and the mentality. The two-hour plus hard runs are what get the good marathoners through the last third of the race. They don’t get faster; they develop the fortitude not to slow down. Jack Foster (Silver medalist in the Commonwealth Games Marathon in 1974) talks about this in his delightful little monograph entitled The Ancient Marathoner. There was a practice run on the Munich Olympic course and Jack ran in this race. And he talks about the last six miles of the race where he felt he was struggling more and more, but each mile split was the same 5.05 or so that he was looking for. His point being that your head often begins to struggle before your body actually does so you have to fight your psychological doubts. This is the hard part of marathoning and can only be mirrored by doing marathon distance training runs. I think there is a train of thought that once a runner runs say 1:08 for a half they have to get faster to run say 2.20 for a marathon. This is not the case; they now have to get stronger to be able to maintain sub 1:10 half pace for the full marathon.

CK: It appears Greg McMillan who runs McMillan Elite coaches using the Lydiard method. Any thoughts on these projects, like Brooks, Hanson’s and McMillan?

KB: Anything that puts the Lydiard philosophy into action in a purposeful, deliberate fashion I am all in favour of. The challenge is that the Lydiard approach is a philosophy, not a programme.  Thus, these people/groups must have someone who can interpret and apply the philosophy effectively to the goals of the athletes they are working with.

Personal bests

8km – 24:38
10km – 30:50
10mi – 51:02
HM – 68:12
21mi – 1:50:40
Marathon – 2:22:07

Calgary Marathon – 8 consecutive wins 1991 to 2000.
Royal Victoria Marathon – 5 consecutive wins 1994 to 1998. Finished 2nd in 1999.

CK: Are you coaching/advising any athletes at this time?

KB: No I am not. I have had some success in this regard in the past. The key is finding athletes who are willing to trust in the philosophy long enough for it to pay dividends. The biggest task is stopping athletes from wasting the initial gains by jumping into doing too much racing. And more importantly, dropping their mileage before races that are of no importance – essentially taking their eye off the goal. In the early days I was as guilty as anyone of not trusting in the program. I was too willing to take days off and not maintain the consistency to build the strong base. Then when I moved to the speed phase I was not particularly successful because I didn’t have the base behind me to support the intensity of the speed phase. This results in the athlete simply getting run down by the speed phase rather than benefiting.

It is often the case that athletes have experienced programmes that are vastly different from a programme grounded in the Lydiard philosophy thus they have difficulty trusting in something that is very different from what they are familiar with. My experience of many North American athletes is that they are what Lorraine Moller refers to as carrot pullers. This means that athletes plant their seeds.i.e…begin training. Then as the dividends begin to show (i.e. the seeds sprout) the athlete can’t help themselves, but go out and do some race or speed-work to see if they are getting faster. Thus they have to pull up the fledgling carrots to see how they are going. The result is the carrots die … in a similar fashion and so does your training program. I coached a number of athletes and this was the No. 1 failing, they would start to get a good base under their belt and then I would hear through the grapevine that they were out doing reps with some group behind my back checking to see if the program was working!

CK: Have you ever done the bounding drills, Lydiard advocated?

KB: When I first used the Lydiard approach I was being coached by one of the original disciples of Lydiard’s. His name is Alistair McMurran and he is still kicking around in Dunedin and spreading the gospel to anyone who will listen. In those days we followed the bounding drills part of things religiously. Living in a hilly city we were well endowed with terrain to do the bounding on.  One thing we also did was apply the bounding principle in running stairs (there were a number of 200+ step flights of stairs around the city). So following pretty much the same drills but doing them up stairs. The benefit of this is that you get to drive off a flat, firm surface of the step. What is lost obviously is the extra strengthening you gain from doing the bounding on a more uneven surface.

The other benefit we found from stairs is that you have to come back down to do the next repetition. Alistair McMurran would have us focus on leg speed as we came down. Meaning that he would ask us to take as fast as steps as possible (one step at a time) as we came back down.  This really made you focus upon turn over and using your arms to keep your legs ticking very fast. The only danger was tripping and falling headlong down the flight of stairs.

I still use similar drills in my training now although I may incorporate them more into a fartlek type run where I come to a hill and will do one drill or another up the hill and then continue on with the run.

CK: Alistair McMurran, the Sports Writer in New Zealand?

KB: Yes, Alistair is a long time sports writer for the Otago Daily Times (ODT). But he is also an extremely accomplished coach. He was the coach (along with Lydiard) of Richard Taylor when he won the 1974 Commonwealth 10,000m beating David Bedford in the process. He also coached Euan Robertson (5th in 1975 World XC champs, 6th Montreal Olympic Steeplechase) and many other NZ internationals. He was also willing to coach anyone. He took me on when I was finishing next to last in junior cross-country races in Dunedin. Alistair was a great believer in sand hill training too and there was always a session or two of sand hills during the transition and hill phases.

The only problem with Alistair being a sports writer was that he would do preview stories in the local paper before the major races around town. We always read these with great apprehension because it was considered the ‘kiss of death’ if Alistair would write you up as a favourite – the chances of doing any good at the race were pretty much toast.

CK: It’s seems you determinedly avoided racing during the base phase of your training. You also peak quite sharply. I remember you won the Comox Valley Half Marathon in a very solid time as a master in 1:10:23. One month before and one month after your performances were not nearly as strong. Is this the result of a sharp peak or a greater capability over longer distances?

KB: This has some truth to it. First I loved the Comox race because it was a mind game more than some races are. You did 6 or 7 km of relatively flat running (sort of a warm up) then you hit the hill and it is a good hill that you can really make count…if you trust in your ability to run the final half after thrashing your self up the hill. I ran the race four or five times and I just loved getting to the bottom of that hill and letting loose and essentially asking the question of whoever was in the pack – Do you trust in your stamina to go hard here and carry on? That day Jim Finlayson asked the question and I was the only one to respond in the affirmative.

Now the year I ran the 1:10:23 everything was going well, each Vancouver Island Race Series event went well – getting a bit better each time (I had a pretty good Mill Bay 10k that year too – I think) – so what Angie and I had devised was working. I was winning the masters category and getting further up in the overall results at each race. Also I was not cutting down my mileage. So for example, before the Pioneer 5 mile I ran 1hr 45 the day before doing the Elk Lake – Beaver Lake – Bear Hill loop. I was also lucky during this time that Steve Bachop and Ian Hallam were willing to suffer having me along for their runs and dragging along behind – so they helped keep me on track.

The sad part was that I got injured (something that doesn’t happen to me too often) after Comox so my Times Colonist 10k and Oceanside 10k races were quite disappointing.

CK: You ran the Comox Valley 20k (same race, different distance) in 1:03:25, was the turnaround before the only hill on the course?

KB: The course at that time was fantastic and my run that day is one of my best races ever – comparable to my 1991 Rolling Hills run. I wish they hadn’t changed the course (I guess the half marathon distance is a more saleable commodity) because it was neat to have a ‘different’ distance to run. The course went right to the top of the big hill and then almost immediately you turned round and had to make the transition to dashing headlong back down the hill. That day I was very pleased with myself because I went out in 32 and back in 31. The Comox race is also nicely positioned in a training cycle because it provides a very good test 6-8 weeks before a spring marathon.

CK: What would a base training week, hill training week and speed phase week look like for you in preparation for one of your marathons?

KB: Now you are asking me to give away trade secrets.

First you have to realize that I have been running for some time and that my approach is somewhat unique to me and based upon running on how I feel on a day-to-day basis. But I know what needs to be fitted into an average week. I am not averse to doing back-to-back long runs (1:45+). The base training is pretty much a project of carefully putting in as many miles as possible.

Sun – long 2 hours minimum (there will be 3 or 4 2:30 runs during the build-up)
Mon – 1:15 Recovery (sometimes a rest day – as one feels)
Tuesday – AM 45-50 minutes PM  1:30
Wednesday AM 45-50 minutes PM 1:45-2:00
Thursday – AM 45-50 minutes PM  1:30
Friday – AM 45-50 minutes PM  45-50minutes (include some light fartlek)
Saturday – 1:30-1:45

Everything is done on time rather than miles or kms. The terrain and how you are feeling will dictate what the actual mileage so for example a 2 hour run might sometimes be ‘only’ 15 miles whereas another day it might be closer to 19.

I used to like linking up with a group for some parts of the longer runs because you could always put your nose in front and there is always a taker to up the pace a bit so just draw out a bit more quality. Then have the last half hour on your own where you are struggling a bit so you develop the mental capacity to keep yourself going like you will need to in the last 30-40 mins of the marathon.

Hill Training

First, you must recognize that you need to transition into hill work. So in the first few weeks you would incorporate some light fartlek involving a number of hills and maybe do one hillier longer run. These weeks are to allow your body to adapt to the increased stress of the hill work. Then after 2 transition weeks the hill work would become more focused. The other thing to remember is that during this period the mileage remains high and the Sunday long run remains a key component. The long run may be a little less intensive but the time remains the same. It will be getting easier anyway as your aerobic capacity will be improving and your legs will be accustomed to the work.

Sun – long 2 hours minimum
Mon – 1:15 easy
Tuesday – AM 45-50 minutes PM 1:15 including 40 minutes hill work (hill circuits, bounding, steps, sand hills).
Wednesday – AM 45-50 minutes PM 1:30 easy
Tuesday – AM 45-50 minutes PM 1:15 including 40 minutes hill work (hill circuits, bounding, steps, sand hills).
Friday – Mon – 1:15 easy
Saturday – 1:15-1:30 hilly run (fartlek approach)

Speed Phase

As I prepare for a marathon my key aim is not speed as such. I can if I wish, run a mile in 4:45 or maybe even a little quicker. However, for a marathon my key aim is not flat out speed it is developing a deep familiarity for the pace I hope to run so I can ‘slot’ into this pace easily on race day. If one runs intervals too fast then when it comes to running the marathon the pace can feel quite uncomfortable because it is somewhere in between your speed pace and your training pace. Thus, I run my speed-work slower than some would expect (but I run my training runs correspondingly faster). Also, I use races as a key element of my speed-work because they help train your mind to deal with the mental challenge of the marathon. Yes, and the long run is still there although it will diminish a little in length nearer to the event. It starts to get to be a bit of a juggling act depending on the length of races you are doing. I do not do too many – 5 or 6 as you build toward a marathon is plenty (I wouldn’t race every week). I don’t worry too much about tapering before each race. But I focus more on recovery after each race so I might have a couple of easy days after a race.

Sunday – Race 5km up to half marathon
Monday – 40-50 minutes easy
Tuesday – 1:15-1:30
Wednesday – AM 50 minutes PM 1:00 including 6-8x1000m in 3:10 with 1:30 recovery. The aim here is consistency – the ideal session will be all 6 reps at exactly the goal pace and run evenly throughout.
Thursday – AM 45-50 minutes PM 1:15 easy
Friday – AM 45-50 minutes PM  45-50minutes (include fartlek, light stride-outs)
Saturday – AM 1-1:15 including 35-45 minutes tempo running

CK: Final question. Steve Osaduik has mentioned in the Newspaper that he may work toward breaking your 5 consecutive wins record. What are your thoughts on that, are you going to miss the record?

KB: As I said above I am quite proud of this record. And also records are as they say made to be broken and who better than a home grown boy like Steve to break it – he is certainly doing a good job so far, three down two to go. However, if I were to be bloody-minded about it I would be telling Steve that he has much bigger fish to fry and that is where he should be directing his focus. Given Steve’s performances to date, Steve could possibly run a very fast marathon and Victoria is not a very fast marathon. We hear regularly that we only have so many ‘good’ marathons in us (some more than others). I think Steve should be targeting two marathons in the next year to 18 months where there is every chance to run fast (Rotterdam, London, Fukuoka, Chicago we all know the list). Given this focus Victoria has no place in the preparation because the timing will suck whatever events he chooses. The idea of running a marathon as a training run, as some might say Steve might run Victoria as, is ludicrous. Why, because as soon as you go into a race you have no control over it being training – if you are going to try to win you will have to run the way the race dictates and as we know this can hurt no matter how fit we are.  Bruce Deacon is a case in point. He ran Victoria in 1999 as a training run in preparation for Sacramento that year. I think that Bruce’s performance at Sacramento suffered as a result. Anyway, I wish Steve good luck if he chooses to go for the record – he is obviously capable and more capable than I ever was.

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