Race Weight: The Longest Mile

An Average Runner’s Journey to Become a Middle Distance Runner…

So I’ve decided to try and become a middle distance runner. After years of running below my potential, I finally want to see what this body of mine can do. Thank you for checking out the Longest Mile Blog! Any feedback is hugely appreciated 🙂


Race Weight

Are you too heavy to be a fast runner? It is the difficult question that I was forced to sit down and ask myself. At the start of this quest, I weighed 78kg. For someone who is 5ft 9, this is pushing the boundaries on the classic BMI graph. For years I have dismissed it. “I’m in good shape”, “I’m a pretty good runner”, “it’s just muscle”. These are all legitimate points for someone exercising just for health. But I want to run for performance. I want to see how fast this chunky endomorphically-inclined body can run.

The penny started to drop when I was reading Peter Coe’s “Winning Running”. Peter was father and coach to the legendary Seb, and is certainly qualified to discuss ‘winning’. In Winning Running, he discusses height to weight ratio for runners. Simply put, this is your optimum weight for your height at the discipline you are racing. Middle distance runners tend, for example, to be more muscled and so a little heavier than marathon runners. It is no coincidence that all elite runners, without exception, are lean running machines. Without any gain in fitness, you will run faster if you are carrying around less weight. That is simple physics. So what should you race weight be?

Dr Stillman’s Height-Weight Ratio

Peter Coe uses Dr Stillman’s equation. Here it is:

  1. Work out the weight for a healthy non-running male of your height: Target Non-Running Weight (kg) =  50 + h, where h is your height above 150 cm, in cm
  2. Now multiply this number by 0.8 for 10km to marathon runners, 0.85 for 5k runners, 0.9 for 1500m runners, and 0.95 for 800m runners.

For example, I am 175cm and targeting 1500m. Therefore:

  1. Target Non-Running Weight (kg) = (50 + h) = (50 + 25) = 75
  2. Target 1500m Race Weight (kg) = 75 × 0.9 = 67.5kg

If you are female, the first step is slightly different. Target Non-Running Weight (kg) =  45 + (0.92 × h), where h is your height above 150 cm, in cm. Step 2 is exactly the same.

If I was serious about making huge performance increases, then there could be no compromise. It was time to stop denying the inconvenient truth. It was time to get fighting fit.

Results?

That was  6 weeks ago. Since then I have lost just over 4kg. Yes, I have been training hard, but I feel faster, leaner and lighter. My joints and muscles hurt less after training (less impact) and I am recovering faster. No doubt a significant contributing factor is weight loss.

I set myself the target of sub 18 5km by the end of the year. On New Year’s eve at Cardiff parkrun, after 5 km of intense gurning,  I crossed the line in 17:39. Happy Days! It gave me the pass to properly enjoy New Years Eve. And I am a small step closer to my goal of sub 17 by the start of the track season in Spring.

This is not advocating diets. Especially not the fad diets that seem to everywhere in the new year.  This is advocating finding your natural and healthy race weight for your best running performance. Healthier, lighter, faster. Let me know your thoughts.

Oh, and apologies for the gross feet in the photo!