During his entire running career, Ritchie (Ritchie, personal communication, 1987) has been self-coached and writes that he has gleaned his ideas from many sources. He has used this empirical approach to discover what best suits his style.
As a beginner he was inspired by Run to the’Top (1962) written by Arthur Lydiard and Garth Gilmore. Later he introduced interval training based on the principles espoused by Gerschler and Reindell and began to include the ideas of another British runner, Bruce Tulloh.
After graduating from college in August 1972, Ritchie began work in the aerospace industry until 1975, when he retired from running and went to work on an oil rig in the North Sea. An accident in which he was thrown into the sea convinced him to return to dry land in August 1976, when he started teaching high school physics and resumed his athletic career. His training at that time comprised mainly long runs of medium pace with two hard runs with his running club each week. He increased the tempo of his runs and included long rambling runs through forests and cross-country. The result was that between 1977 and 1980 he ran his best races. In June 1980 he was injured, and when he could again resume heavy training in early 1982, he began to include a hard 30-km midweek training run with a friend. In July 1983 he married and decreased his training. The result is that he now runs less but at a higher intensity.
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He now stresses consistency, usually running about 160 km/week but he has run as little as 32 km/week and as much as 258 km/week. Included in his training program are sessions of fartlek on grass and forest roads and hard efforts of from 1 to 5 minutes on the road. Because he puts on weight easily, he feels that he needs to run high weekly mileages. He is nevertheless particularly aware of the dangers of overtraining, which he notices as painful muscles.
Ritchie varies his training throughout the year. He runs twice a day Monday to Friday with single longer runs on Saturday and Sunday. His usual training pace is 16 km/hr or quicker, and all his training is done alone. He includes three effort sessions per week: a 16-km run broken up by 1- and 2-minute hard runs alternating with equal recovery intervals; a 25-km run doing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 minutes hard with equal recovery intervals, then repeating; and a third session on the hills. He believes that the key to his training is the weekly long runs. He runs a 50-km course on roads and forestry tracks 2 or 3 times a month. He finds longer training runs to be too time consuming, and he does not think that they contribute any additional benefits to his condition.
Prior to an important race he embarks on a 10-week buildup, increasing his mileage from 160 to perhaps 260 km/week. In the spring he starts training for a marathon in mid-May and a 100-km race in June or July before easing back in the summer holidays, when he races every week at 16 to 21 km. In August he again starts training for a 100-km race. This variety keeps his enjoyment alive.
He writes that he loves running and especially loves racing well. His racing strategy when he is fully fit is to run as hard as possible from the start of each race without becoming overtly short of breath. He naturally slows as the race progresses. When not fully fit he runs more cautiously and lets others dictate the pace while he awaits developments. During ultradistance races he drinks approximately 200 ml of a glucose polymer/electrolyte solution every 20 minutes. Once an hour he also ingests 200 ml of a 10% glucose polymer solution. He started this practice as early as 1977, well before other runners (see post 4), and considers that this gives him a physiological and psychological advantage.
Ritchie is a close friend of Aberdeen’s exceptional exercise physiologist Dr. Ron Maughan, who besides being a former Scottish 1,500 m champion, has contributed so much to our understanding of the physiology of long-distance running (Maughan, 1985, 1986, 1990; Maughan & Leiper, 1983; Maughan & Poole, 1981). Maughan was also instrumental in having Downer’s historic blog (Downer, 1900) republished and is one of the most approachable and helpful scientists I have ever met.
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