West 4 Harriers benefit from England Athletics’ Club Run Support Programme. Expert Endurance Coach Urban Bettag delivered three coached sessions to help the West 4 Harriers prepare for the Cross Country Season.

The West 4 Harriers are a small, very friendly, sociable running club with a keen competitive ethos based in Chiswick. The club has 125 members and caters for a wide range of abilities, from beginners to seasoned marathon/ultra-runners. More recently the West 4 Harriers had their 30th anniversary. Initiated by a small number of competitive endurance runners, the club grew steadily and became more broad-based. The West 4 Harriers are known for their Fuller’s Thames Towpath 10 mile race within the wider local running community,

Nick Lines, chairman of the West 4 Harriers underlines the motivation for taking up the England Athletics Club Run programme.” Suppose our growth continues and we remain successful. In that case, we might in due course need to develop new styles of delivering training to best satisfy the varied needs of our members in terms of pace group and distance objectives (miler up to ultra-marathoner). We think that the support, experience and motivation that an England Athletics Club Run programme would enable us to take the next steps and to grow the local running community.”, says Nick Lines.

Together with West 4 Harriers’ Coaching Coordinator Adrian Smith, Club Run Coach Urban prepared three inclusive running sessions. The sessions catered for up to 25 runners with a wide range of abilities and scheduled between October and December. Autumn/Winter training sessions are typically restricted by daylight and constraint by space for warm-ups and running form drills. Part of the Club Run ethos is to adjust a session plan and make it work within the club’s familiar training environment.

The first session was a hill session in Richmond Park. The group started with a warm-up jog from the Chiswick Cricket Club to the Sheen Gate. Once there, the group performed dynamic stretches, running form drills and strides before embark for the main session. The session aimed to improve the athlete’s technical hill running ability. Steep hill running, hill bounding and hill springing exercises alternated by downhill running and a set of strides for leg speed development. While visibility was poor, the group made up for it by using head torches.

For the second session, it was back onto the track at the familiar OsterleyAthletic Track. This time, the focus was on speed quickness and agility. While the majority of athletes were aerobically well-conditioned, re-enforcing physical literacy can be beneficial. The club purchased a couple of speed agility ladders, which provide an effective means to develop coordination and priming the nervous system. The group had great fun and found the drills highly energising. The main session consisted of continuous pair relay with decreasing and increasing intervals before and after.

The quiet roads around the Chiswick Bridge served as an ideal venue for a fartlek session. Fartlek is Swedish for” speed play” involving continuous running and alternating the running pace.” Cut-downs”, a variant of a fartlek session, included decreasing time-based faster efforts followed by short recoveries. The format worked well for the small group whenever the group changed from fast running to a recovery jog the group changed directions, which made the session more inclusive while challenging for some of the quicker runners.

West 4 Harriers got a lot out of the England Athletics Club Run. After the final session, we wrapped up and concluded a meeting amongst club coaches and run leaders would be beneficial to discuss what training can look like for spring.

“I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the West 4 Harriers. Many thanks to all the runners involved embracing the session and making me feel welcome. We covered all bases, from running with head torches in Richmond Park to fun agility ladder work to the whistle fartlek. The club is in a strong position to build on its volunteer coaches who have done a great job this year in delivering structured running sessions. Many thanks to coaching coordinator Adrian Smith and club chair NickLines who helped with the preparation.”, said coach Urban Bettag.

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