(5/4/2018) Blog 4-Dave Ridley-How to become a better marathoner?
Ridders, thanks for agreeing to be on the ‘griller’ for the third interview of the Run Culture Blog, a segment where we strip back and get a bit interesting with inspiring members of the running world.
Now, for those that don’t know, Dave Ridley is a Kiwi formerly from Christchurch having migrated to Melbourne a couple of years ago. He loves running and is starting to make a real name for himself in the marathon world. He also is a run coach for the Melbourne Nike Run Club and he works full time in advertising and marketing. We catch up with Dave after his incredible 2:20:10 marathon PR set just two weeks ago in the Seoul Marathon on March the 18th 2018.
Dave, first of all, congratulations on another amazing performance the other day, correct me if I’m wrong but does that make it;
2012 Auckland Mara 2:39:09
2013 Buller Mara 2:36:33
2014 Sydney Mara 2:29:11
2014 Queenstown Mara 2:37:30
2015 Auckland Mara 2:31:26
2016 Gold Coast Mara 2:26:16
2016 Fukuoka Mara 2:25:22
2017 Gold Coast Mara 2:24:59
2017 Berlin Mara 2:21:58
2018 Seoul Mara 2:20:10!!!!!!!!
You just ran near on two minutes faster than Berlin, what did you do better in Seoul?
Thanks – Appreciate the shout-out, I’m really stoked on the race. There was actually a whole heap of stuff that contributed to Seoul’s result – both in preparation and throughout the race itself.
The big difference, as I see it, would be in the preparation. For Seoul, more of the general running boxes were ticked. Workouts were faster, mileage was higher, I made more of an effort for recovery at Fluid Health in Port Melbourne. I was getting weekly massage and I’d use their Recovery facilities (hot cold baths, compression boots etc) a couple times per week too. In comparison to Berlin, my preparation was great – but it just wasn’t quite at the same level as Seoul. I remember rolling workouts early in January and thinking that I was in better shape than Berlin. In some respects this was a little unnerving because I had to hold on to the form. Normally I’m chasing my tail right up to taper to try and get fitter, but this time around I was happy with my fitness and was just trying to sprinkle on the sugar at the end.
I suppose the more dedicated training really gave me an added sense of confidence. I knew I was in for a good one, the goal was to just have a good day. So I focused on getting fresh and recovered before the race to give myself as much chance as I could to perform well.
Berlin was also a massive stepping stone for so many reasons. I had a sore foot that slowed me down quite significantly from 23km during the race. So, when I finished, after putting up with truly terrible pain, I was feeling relatively fresh. My initial thought was, ‘wow – I’m not that tired – I could go way faster’. With that in mind, Berlin has played a really important role mentally for me. How I felt after the race has influenced the ceiling on what I thought I could achieve. If you had of asked me a couple years ago about what I dreamed of running in my marathon career, a sub 2:25 would be around the time I would have chosen. But after Berlin, I started to shift my thinking toward being able to run 2:17/18 in the next couple years. And for Seoul, that’s exactly what I tried to do. Trying to break 2:20 was actually not really a thing. I wanted something even faster. But, as you know – the marathon is a tough game.
4 years ago you were a 2:29 guy, as a 2:20 guy what are you doing differently?
There are honestly so many things. And, like I mentioned above it’s the sum of all these tweaks and changes that have helped. To touch on a few key aspects, I think that first and foremost I’m more determined and committed for sure. I’ve always trained hard and expected big performances to a certain degree. I think, now more than ever, my life and everything I do is centred around running fast. I’ve been fanatical about sleep, nutrition, and recovery. In recent years I feel that I’m tougher mentally too – I can relax when I’m hurting, whereas when I was younger dealing with the uncomfy pace did take a big toll on me.
In terms of training; I feel that I’ve improved all parts of the spectrum – both speed and endurance. My workouts each week tend to touch-on stimulus across all energy systems, so I’ve seen some good improvement in not getting too caught up in ‘marathon specific’ pace stuff too often.
As I mentioned above, better recovery has helped immensely. I know everyone says that, but it’s so true. If hitting good workouts is the main factor that contributes to improvement, then by making sure any running or activities I do on recovery days is about getting fresh for the next day. Some mornings I don’t run any faster than 4:40s. I use to have some crazy sleeping habits when I was young too – which is not that uncommon I suppose. I remember back when I was at Uni, I’d study at night from 8pm – 2am then go to bed around 3am. I’d then wake up around 10/11am. That sort of stuff just doesn’t happen any more. Actually, even when I ran Sydney in 2014 I was fitting sleep in around my social ‘lifestyle’. That sort of thinking and behaviour just doesn’t exist anymore, which I’m pretty thankful for.
I also think that by default I’ve given myself a stack of time to mature and grow. I’m almost 30 now and have been running my whole life, literally. So I think that with hard consistent training for years and years my body is able to tolerate some of the silliness I throw at it. And mentally, I’ve learned not to be short-sighted on performance. I’m pretty good at putting bad days behind me and moving on fast. As a kid I use to get caught up in bad results and would let bad days impact how I felt.
I’ve also tried a stack of different training methods, workouts and ways to train. I’ve found that over the last few years my coach and I have started to hit the nail on the head with what works for me. I do some pretty unique workouts that others don’t do, so I like it that my training is a bit different.
I work with Caiden Shields another Kiwi distance runner who has recently moved from Dunedin to Melbourne. He says you were a fairly talented junior. Have you run steadily since you were a young kid or have you been in and out of the sport?
I’ve run for as long as I can remember. I’ve dreamed of being a fast runner for the same amount of time. I’m not sure why I connected with the sport from such a young age, but potentially it had something to do with being the best. I loved racing my neighbours, school kids and my brothers and sisters when I was growing up. I loved trying to beat people. Winning is bloody fun and addictive.
Through school I achieved some good results, winning a bunch of South Island secondary school titles and regional titles. I don’t think my achievements were super incredible. They probably just represent that I had a bit of talent. Although, I actually trained pretty bloody hard as a kid – so potentially winning some of these races just boiled down to me training the house down.
I did play a stack of other sports too, like basketball, soccer, and skating. But, I can remember always wanting to run. Running has always been at the centre of everything I have done or wanted to do.
I’ve listened to a couple of great podcasts you have featured on; ‘Runner chats’, ‘The Kiwi Running Show’ and ‘Tell me your Tales’, in these you detail that you work on a 14 day cycle so that you can include a marathon specific workout every second Sunday. Do you mind detailing 2 or 3 variations of these marathon specific workouts and the splits you hit for the ‘running nerds’ (myself included) out there?
Over the past few years we’ve loosely followed a 14 day cycle. The big challenge in marathon training is to fit everything into a 7 day cycle, so spreading out the workouts over 14 days has helped me tick all the boxes. The main difference results on the second Sunday, where we combine a workout with the long run. I will jog for 21km, then start a tempo, fartlek or aerobic threshold reps. The benefit is in the added recovery between Thursday and Sunday, and with the marathon specific stimulus I get from starting a workout at 21km. I feel that I’ve trained my body to tolerate the intensity pretty well after running for 90+ mins.
We use the 14 day cycle in an endurance phase of the plan, where aiming to hit specific times in workouts is less important. The main goal is to improve aerobic capacity and adapt to the increased mileage volume. Before Seoul, I did a few months of this prior to more rep based workouts 8 weeks out – where we also transitioned to a typical 7 day week, with two big workouts and two big long runs.
Whats your most memorable/favourite longer (marathon or ½ marathon specific) tempo/rep session you have ever completed?
Actually just a few weeks ago before Seoul, I had several mates from AM:PM Run Crew come down and help me out on their bikes with a 70min Threshold in Albert Park. I rolled 68:55 through the 21km mark, feeling really strong. It was a windy day too, so having the guys on the bikes was a massive help. The Grand Prix was also a few weeks out, so the roads were closed with the F1 cages up along the road which made it feel pretty cool. We were able to roll around the roads with no-cars to bother us, hitting 3:16s and feeling really good. It was just nice to have some company for a long workout like that.
What would your average weekly mileage have been in the lead up to Seoul?
I’m not exactly sure, as I don’t know when to start the ‘lead up from’ but it was high-mileage – around 200km for a couple months leading in. I noticed a big difference with this phase in comparison to other preparation, where I was able to run big volume while still recovering and hitting my workouts really well. I drew a lot of confidence in knowing that I wasn’t overcooking myself. I’ve had instances in previous training blocks where I’d get up to 200km + per week for a couple weeks but would come down with a cold or flu. So, the consistency of training was such a confidence builder.
When did you start really targeting your training for Seoul, how many weeks out?
I actually wasn’t officially entered in Seoul until late January. I was originally trying to get into Tokyo marathon, but I was way too late entering. My agent gave me the option of Seoul which worked really well with a few other things we had on around the same time – a trip to NZ for my mates wedding and moving into my new home the week prior.
How often do you schedule a recovery week, what does that week look like?
I know a bunch of guys work off a 3/4 week hard, one week easy structure. This isn’t really for me. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it, but I will back off in training for a few days if I feel I need to. I’d prefer to have 2-3 days jogging around instead of a full 7 days easy to recover.
What pre race and in race nutrition strategies do you use?
My sponsor Science In Sport have been great helping to inform and guide me about the best way to use fuelling strategies in training and racing to ensure I have enough fuel. As for race nutrition, I start carb loading a few days out. And on race day I’ll eat a Go Energy bar with toast, bananas and black coffee 3-4 hrs prior to the start. I’ll also take on Go Electrolytes with water too and Go Energy drinks to boost up my carb intake. At about one hour before the race I’ll stop drinking completely just to let my body digest everything. Then, 15min before the start, I’ll take a Go Electrolyte gel to kick-start my metabolism. Then during the race I aim to hit 20-30 grams of carbs per hour. The reality is I don’t get anywhere near that, so there’s plenty of opportunity to improve here.
How do you fit in been a coach at Nike run club, with full time work, a social life and the training demands of a 2:20 ‘thoner?
It’s certainly busy, most days are non-stop. My approach is to prioritize the most important stuff first. I’ve started to figure out that I’m a pretty darn good planner with everything that’s going on. It’s really important that I spend down-time with my girlfriend Lizzie first and foremost. Training fits around work pretty well actually. I work at Mustard Creative as an Account Director. So, my role has a tonne of responsibility and I really do try to put my best foot forward there. We work bloody hard, and there is a good understanding with my boss that I work to a tight schedule – so I’m in the office by 8:45am most mornings, and out the door just after 5:30pm. I tend to workout and do long runs in the evening so it’s often after 8pm before I’m home.
Nike works really well too. I’m often able to spend a little time at lunch helping organise events, and when events are on in the evening during the week I’ll just use this as training. Or, I’ll do my own training later on in the evenings. Throughout February and March Nike Run Club has hosted some incredible events in Sydney and Melbourne for the running community, which I wasn’t able to attend due to travel. It was a bit of a bummer as the events are so much fun, and truly unique so I get a bit of FOMO to be honest. But the team and crew around NRC is incredibly understanding and compassionate with my running, so I’m really thankful for their support.
It’s a busy life that’s for sure, but I wouldn’t have it another way.
Whats your coaching arrangement? Do you have much input?
Matt Ingram is my coach. He’s based in Christchurch, New Zealand and helps out with a bunch of top Kiwi runners. We collaborate closely on what each week should look like with regards to the plan. However, unlike many runners I don’t have a coach on the ground turning up to training, which I actually prefer in many respects. It means I get to take control of my sessions and coach myself through many of the day-to-day nuances of training. Matt’s involvement is to act as a sounding board and to challenge the purpose behind any ideas we have. He really likes to mix sessions up – and keep them interesting. From an adaption perspective, there’s a heap of benefit that comes from having fresh and different workouts most weeks. We both see eye-to-eye on using variation and its role in training stimulus. I have found that if the workouts are too similar week-to-week then I get a bit stale. So, for me, there’s merit in exploring different variations of both traditional and contemporary workouts. We certainly don’t subscribe to a ‘methodology’. I think that’s a load of BS.
I have a pretty eclectic taste in music. However, I’d say hip-hop/rap is my most common go-to. Kanye, Big Sean, Mos Def – love those guys.
Who is your inspiration? In running or life
There’s not one person or thing that inspires me to be honest. I don’t fan-girl too much. But I totally get kicks from seeing people push their limits. I’ve heard stories about guys like Rod Dixon, Deek, and even Jake and Zane Robinson. These guys are incredible. I appreciate how wise and worldly Eluid Kipchoge seems. And I absolute love how competitive and limitless Kenesia Bekele is. There’s something special about how he can lift to a new level when he’s pushed and when he’s 100% committed – something I don’t think we’ve seen from him in the last few years unfortunately.
In 10 years where do you ideally see yourself? What do you hope to have achieved or ticked of or be doing?
In my running world, the goal is to keep improving my marathon times and travel the world. I get a heap of fulfilment out of learning to get more out of myself, by raising the somewhat psychological bar on what I think I can achieve.
I’m also fortunate enough to have an equally strong passion for business. I work in Advertising, and have done a stack of brand development and interesting campaign work which I really enjoy. So, over the next 10 years I’ll defiantly start to explore more opportunities within the business world.
Of all the runners you have ever run with who do you regard as having the best running banter? As in deliriously funny.
Too many people to name really. Sorry Aussies, but the Kiwis by far have the best banter. The Aussies tend to be pretty serious sometimes. There’s some pretty darn funny stories I’ve heard on long runs about the old-school Kiwi antics. My mates Matt Harris, Brett Tingay, Gus Taylor can keep you entertained on a long run all day.
You’ve had a lot of memorable races but list the top 3 most gratifying races you have ever had?
Under 15 Boys 3000m at NZ South Island’s secondary schools track champs. I won the race, it was my first time under 10min in 9:57. It was a fantastic race, I came home really strong and whipped past the other runners with 200m to go. I often reflect on this race and just how much I wanted to win. It’s actually wild to think how much running can mean to a 14 year old kid.
Sydney Marathon 2014 was a real highlight too. It was the first time I broke 2:30 with a 2:29:11 marathon. I fought so hard that day and pushed through a heap of pain to come home strong. I remember walking (very slowly) around Sydney the next day just feeling like I was on cloud 9.
Seoul Marathon. It’s a PB, and I’ve got a stack of confidence from this race. I find that as I’m getting stronger and fitter the back half of the marathon is slowly feeling more and more in control. Seoul was actually one of the first times I’ve felt really strong in a marathon.
For those juniors out there, what’s the best single piece of advice you’d love to have had when you were going through the ranks?
Time is on your side and be long-term focussed. I find runners often get caught up in a short-term mindset, thinking they can get really good quickly, even over just 5-6 weeks. The reality is that it may take months and months of hard consistent running to get strong. So, be patient, train hard but be long-term focussed. If I can be a case study, It’s taken over 10 years of hard running to be half decent, and even then I have a long way to go.
From a training-standpoint, I’d suggest decreasing the mileage if you’re still in high-school. It’s easy to get sucked into thinking that running more is the only factor that gets you fit – especially if you’re in a group with older athletes. Look to increase the intensity of threshold runs, focus on recovering between hard days, and keep the mileage capped until you body is able to tolerate the volume.
What’s the single greatest lesson running has taught you about life?
My old coach Don Grieg is a classic guy, who came from a generation of runners who trained so hard and drank a shit-tonne of beer – all with no complaints about how tough things were. I think this mentality is missing somewhat amongst runners and also in life today. We’ve collectively got pretty darn soft.
We’re so use to making excuses about why things don’t go to plan. So, I like to try and keep things simple, work hard, and close the door on any unnecessary hype or drama that I see so many others get caught up with.
What factors/principles do you believe are the keys to distance running success?
Running is the ultimate indicator of hard work. If you consistently put the effort in then you will reap the fruits of your labour. I love that about running. It’s a true test of human resilience and desire.
You have to enjoy it too. It’s a bloody tough sport, if not the toughest, so make sure you have fun with it. I’ve found a stack of fulfilment in contributing back to the sport too, by sharing more about what I do, meeting and talking with new people through Nike Run Club. Supporting others and having great people in your corner has actually come full-circle and helped get more out of my own performances.
Is it too early to ask what is next for Dave Ridley?
I really believe that over the next few years I’m on my way to many more good marathon results. I hope to be at heaps more international marathons, challenging and testing my limits.
I’m starting to gravitate to more of a coaching role with a few athletes too, which I’m excited about. I really enjoy trying to figure out how to help others see and realise their potential. Every person is different and trying to align the principles of running with each persons’ needs is an exciting challenge.
And finally, you’ll probably see a stack more Instagram stories about running too. That goes without saying.
Dave, thanks so much for your time, you have been incredibly generous. I’m sure readers will find your insights invaluable. Make sure you keep enjoying the fact that you are a 2:20 flat guy, looking forward to following your progress at Gold coast and potentially Frankfurt marathons this year. Let’s hop you get that 2:17/18 you are after.