The Training of Steve Cram

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“Despite what some coaches might say, the majority of past successes were built on a sound endurance background forged by most on the mud and hills of strength-building cross-country events. Bypass this as an integral part of a competitive foundation and you automatically reduce the chances of sustained success on the track from 800m up to the marathon.” – Steve Cram

steve cram
Steve Cram

Free Sources:
– ‘Steve Cram – The Making of an Athlete’. By Roger Tames.
– Official Journal of the British Milers’ Club. VOLUME 3 ISSUE 15 SPRING 2003. Article by Dr Norman Poole, pages 9-13.

DOB: 16th October 1960, Gateshead, England.

Personal Bests

– 800m: 1:42.88
– 1500m: 3:29.67
– Mile: 3:46.32
– 3000m: 7:43.10
– 5000m: 13:28.58

Highlights

– World Championship 1500m Gold, Helsinki, 1983.
– Olympic Games 1500m silver medal, 1984, Los Angeles.
– To this day (21/03/2017) ranked the third fastest over one-mile in history.

Steve Cram was born in Jarrow, Tyneside, England in 1960, with a whole lot of talent. Over a 19 day period during the European summer of 1985 Cram, nicknamed “The Jarrow Arrow”, set the running world alight, clocking world records in the 1500m, 2000m and the mile. Still considered one of the best middle distance runners to ever live, Cram was honourably the first man to run under 3:30 for the 1500m. Cram’s championship highlights include winning 1500 metres gold at the 1983 World Championships, winning three Commonwealth Games gold medals, two European Championship gold medals and silver at the 1984 Olympic Games 1500m.

Here we dive into the training of this great athlete.

Starting Young

Cram started training young. At 10 years of age he was training consistently. By 15 he was training once per day, 7 days a week – under the tutelage of Jimmy Hedley. During these early years Hedley made sure Cram’s body was adapting to run on all types of surfaces, and the main emphasis was having fun. During these junior days Cram did lots of fartlek training, cross country racing and orienteering.

Notably, Cram was not the best junior going round the UK. But his competitive spirit was undeniable and was being nurtured and encouraged.

Hedley believed in using races as training sessions, and to help build a competitive edge. Cram therefore raced a lot during his junior years.

Periodisation – 5 Stages

Every year, even as a junior, had one main target race – being whatever major championship was on the horizon. For Cram there were 5 stages of periodisation.

Stage 1 (Endurance) – 22 weeks approx.

This period lasted for approximately 22 weeks during Autumn/Winter. It involved a high volume of aerobic running. Interestingly, not one track session was ever completed during this 22 week period.

Cram would build up slowly to an average weekly mileage of approximately 80.

A typical week during this period is outlined below:

– Monday:
o am: 4-5 miles no slower than 6 minutes per mile pace.
o Pm: 5-8 miles group road run sometimes incorporating surges during the final 2 miles. The run would always incorporate some hills within it.

– Tuesday:
o am: 4-5 miles no slower than 6 minutes per mile pace.
o pm: 5-8 miles group road run sometimes incorporating surges during the final 2 miles. The run would always incorporate some hills within it.

– Wednesday:
o am: 4-5 miles no slower than 6 minutes per mile pace.
o pm: 5-8 miles group road run sometimes incorporating surges during the final 2 miles. The run would always incorporate some hills within it.

– Thursday:
o am: 4-5 miles no slower than 6 minutes per mile pace.
o pm: 5-8 miles group road run sometimes incorporating surges during the final 2 miles. The run would always incorporate some hills within it.

– Friday:
o Rest or 5-8 miles easy running.

– Saturday:
o Competition (Cross country or road race) or 8-10 miles of a hard competitive group session.

– Sunday:
o Long run 10-14 miles.

Note:
– If Cram felt fatigued he would sometimes miss runs or run at a slower pace to recover.

Stage 2 (Altitude) – 3 weeks approx.

At the end of the initial 22 week endurance phase, Cram liked to spend 3 weeks at altitude. Usually Boulder, Colorado at 5,500 feet.

The training during this 3 week period was more or less the same as the previous 22 weeks. The altitude camp was used for a change of scene, to recharge his batteries, to make sure that he was ready to commence more intense sessions in the coming months.

Stage 3 (Pre-competition)-9 weeks approx.

The changes to the weekly schedule during this phase involved adding in track sessions on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The weekly mileage reduced ever so slightly. Saturday was used for road races or a tough speed endurance session.

The goal of every track session was to get slightly faster with every rep.

A typical week during this period is outlined below:

– Monday:
o am: 4 miles at 5:30 to 6 minutes per mile.
o pm: 5-6 mile road run with an average pace of 5 minutes per mile.

– Tuesday:
o am: 4 miles at 5:30 to 6 minutes per mile.
o pm: Track session. Examples include:
• 6 by 800m with 2 min recovery. Average time 2:05.
• 6 by 600m with 90 seconds recovery. Average time 92-93 seconds.
• 6-10 by 400m with 60 seconds recovery. Average time 57-58 seconds.

– Wednesday:
o am: 4 miles at 5:30 to 6 minutes per mile.
o pm: 5-6 mile road run with an average pace of 5 minutes per mile.

– Thursday:
o am: 4 miles at 5:30 to 6 minutes per mile.
o pm: Track session. Examples include:
• 10-12 by 400m with 60 seconds recovery. Average time 60 seconds.
• 10-12 by 300m with 45 seconds recovery. Average time 41-42 seconds.
• 10-12 by 200m with 30 seconds recovery. Average time 26-27 seconds.

– Friday:
4 miles at 5:30 to 6 minutes per mile

– Saturday:
o Road race or
o Hard speed endurance sessions of approximately 60 minutes in duration. An example of one such mammoth session was:

• 1600m jog, 1600m fast, 1000m fast, 1000m jog, 1000m fast.
Then
• 600m jog, 400m fast, 600m jog, 400m fast, 600m jog, 200m fast.
Then
• 200m slow, 200m fast.
Then
• 4 by 150m hill sprints (jog back recovery)
Then
• 6 by 60m downhill sprints.

– Sunday:
o Long run 8-10 miles at 6 minutes per mile.

Stage 4 (Competition)-15 weeks approx.

Important facts about this vital competition stage include:

– The whole point was to peak for major championships.
– Cram would always try to open his season with a couple of 3000m races, followed by a variation of 800m and 1500m races leading into the major championship.
– Prior to the major championship the goal was to race (all approximate): Twice over 3000m, 3-4 times over 800m, twice over 1500m and twice over 1000m.

A typical week during this period is outlined below:

– Monday:
o am: 4 miles at 5:30 to 6 minutes per mile.
o pm: Track session. Example:
• 10 by 300m with 45 seconds recovery. Target time 41-42 seconds.

– Tuesday:
o am: 4 miles at 5:30 to 6 minutes per mile.
o pm: 5-6 mile road run with an average pace of 5 minutes per mile.

– Wednesday:
o am: 4 miles at 5:30 to 6 minutes per mile.
o pm: Track session. Example:
• 600m with 3 minute recovery then 6 by 200m with 30 seconds recovery. All would be run at 800m pace (77 seconds for the 600m)

– Thursday:
o 5-6 mile road run at an easy pace.

– Friday:
o 4 miles at an easy pace.

– Saturday:
• Race

– Sunday:
o Long run 8-10 miles at 6 minutes per mile.

Major Championship Taper

7 days out from the major championship, Cram would taper his training further. During these 7 days leading into a major championship race there would be 2 track sessions including:

– 8 by 200m with 60 seconds recovery. Approximate times 25-26 seconds. Run in a controlled fashion.
– 2 by 400m with 2 minutes recovery. Plus 6 by 200m with walk back recovery. Run in a controlled fashion.
– Cram kept the pure sprint work to a minimum, due to the belief that their ‘return from investment’ was low. He occasionally would do 10 by 150m sprints with 250m recovery jog.

For the two days leading into the major championship race, Cram would drop his mileage to 3 miles per day maximum making sure his legs were fresh and ready to roll come major championship race day.

Stage 5 (Rest)-3 weeks approx.

At the end of the season Cram spent 3 weeks resting and recovering. He did the occasional jog during this period or participated in other sports, in a gentle/safe manner.

End

“The Jarrow Arrow” – Cram’s Top 5 Races

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