Great Scott Accidental hero
Scott Overall didn’t even think he’d be running marathons by now, but a stunning performance in Berlin last year has propelled him into the Olympic team. MR dropped in to see how training has been going
This time last year Scott Overall was living with his mum and fitting in training around a part-time job in a running shoe shop. In August this year he will be battling it out on the streets of London for a medal in the Olympic marathon.
It becomes clear after only a few minutes chatting to MR that he sees his life in two distinct hemispheres.
The Pre-Berlin and Post-Berlin worlds of the Scott Overall story are in many ways as opposite as night and day. Before September 25, 2011 life was the job and the running where it could be squeezed in. After a fifth placed finish in a time of 2:10:55 in the historic German city, he became a lottery-funded ex-running shoe shop worker, a full-time athlete with a deal from a global shoe brand and a place in the British team on the biggest stage any runner could wish for.
He talks about all this as though he is still looking in at what’s happened to him from the outside, like it hasn’t quite sunk in.
“Before Berlin I was training to run a qualifying time and had always had decent results on the road. I went over to the States as I do every year to run the 5k in Mount SAC (San Antonio College – a race that traditionally attracts big names from Europe). I felt in PB shape but for some reason it just didn’t click for me.”
Overall switched his focus to the half marathon in Indianapolis at the beginning of May 2011 and off the back of just his 5k training ran 63:20.
“I thought I could give the marathon a go in September and if it didn’t go to plan I could come back to the UK and run the track season. It just gave me another chance to qualify and I went well. I like running on the roads, I run better than on track and definitely better than I run cross country. If this wasn’t an Olympic year it may have been a couple more years before I’d done the marathon. But this is my home Olympics. Everyone wants to play a part in that.”
That fifth place in Berlin, a race in which a new world record was set, suggests Overall could do more than play a part.
“Before Berlin, I used to live with my mum in Teddington and in that part of the world you get wrapped up in the training bubble there with the Kenyans who live there and the other athletes. I used to think: ‘I don’t have a full-time job but neither does he and neither does he, just go with it’.
“But since Berlin, I was invited to run as pacemaker at the London Marathon, I’m involved with adidas, got put on lottery funding – it all helps. I didn’t have to work, I could focus on the Olympics and try to run faster. It’s working out well. I went to New York in March and ran a half marathon PB of 61:25.”
He is midway through a 12-week schedule designed by his American coach Robert Chapman to replicate his preparations for Berlin. So how does an Olympic marathon runner train? MR took an exclusive peek inside Overall’s training diary.
“The first two to three weeks are about getting the mileage up, so I’ll do three sessions a week. Because I’m coached by an American my week works slightly differently to the UK guys who will mostly do Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. I run on Tuesday, Friday, Sunday.
Example track session
- Two mile warm up at 5 min mile pace
- One lap jog recovery
- 6 x 1 mile starting off at 4:45 mins per mile and coming down to about 4:30
with a one-lap recovery in 90secs (6-mins per mile,).
Weeks 4-10 approx
Long tempo runs and long runs up to 24 miles. Friday is my solid tempo run day of between 8-16 miles on tempo. My pace averages around 5-mins per mile. It might start a bit slower than that and then build into it. It depends on how far I’m running and what my coach says.
Sunday long run
Anywhere between 18 and 24 miles. Generally I’ll start no slower than 6 mins per mile, no quicker than 5:10, depending on what my coach says.
Occasionally my coach might throw in a long run mid-week and make sure it’s undulating, but generally I don’t really do hill sessions. I used to do quite a lot when I was younger but I haven’t done hills for few years. Robert doesn’t really incorporate hill training. I’ve been with him since 2007 and it works well for me.
Once a week. A lot of plyometric drills, hurdle drills for flexibility, then in the gym I do squats, stiff-legged deadlifts (for the hamstrings) and core work with a medicine ball for injury prevention. Obviously I don’t want to be massive, but this work makes sure nothing breaks down with the miles I’m doing.
Dinner pre long run
Any sort of pasta dish. I generally eat pasta six times a week with whatever else. My girlfriend hates it but she can’t cook so she can’t really say anything.
Toast with jam or honey, banana, maybe some water, not too much.
After a long run
“The beauty of having funding now is I don’t have to finish a run and rush to get something to eat and get to work and be on my feet. Recovery is such a big part of training. The Kenyans really have it down. They have no distractions and, this sounds bad, but there isn’t anything to do there and it works for them. They’re the same when come to the UK. They don’t go shopping, they’re quite happy to sit down and put the TV on. They do watch some terrible films though, but that’s all part of the recovery. I can do it, I can watch TV and do nothing, but my girlfriend has to be doing something otherwise it feels like she’s wasted the day. It’s part and parcel of what I do and it helps.”
“People can over-think a marathon, says Overall. “They get too wrapped up in how many miles a week they run, the pace they run on general runs. It’s quite simple: run the miles. The basis of a training plan I would say is do your long run and do your tempo run and you will get results from that.
“Once you start overthinking it you’re taking away your attention from the actual running of the race. Run within yourself for the first half and be prepared to be hurting in the last half.”
Breaking it down
Generally I don’t think about the distance. In Berlin I ran with a French guy so we worked together. You can take your mind off it and look at the crowd. Generally I won’t think about how far I have left until the second half. Then I count down the miles. But in Berlin I missed a drink station so that was 10k where I didn’t have a drink and was thinking ‘I’m thirsty now’. You go through bad patches in a race but thankfully that didn’t last too long for me. The key is to get back on it and concentrate on the next goal.
In Berlin I came through halfway in 12th
and finished fifth, so I constantly had a Kenyan coming back on me and I could just pick them off. In the Olympics it will be a much bigger group of guys. I don’t think the course is particularly quick so I’ll always have people around me and it’ll be a race rather than a time trial.
You know the top guys, you know their times and I don’t think any of them will want to go out and risk blowing up. I need to be there in the last 10k and if some of the Kenyans and Ethiopians have gone off too fast, I’ll be there to capitalise.
“I have to run a marathon and prepare for it the same way I did Berlin. It’s not going to be any easier having the crowd, I still have to be ready to run fast in the marathon and if I can get in 2:07, 2:08 shape – and I think I can – I’ve a good chance of being there at the end. The crowd with it being a 10k loop will be fantastic. In this year’s BUPA 10,000 I couldn’t hear myself breathing. I imagine it will be like that all way round but I have to be careful not to get too excited and run 28 minutes for first 10K! That last lap, if I’m in the top 10 and there are guys in front of me I can catch, it’s going to be great.”