There are many theories in regards to high mileage running.
The consensus is that to run great marathons high mileage is a must.
I had to go back and forth with my professional coach of three years, Lisa Larsen Rainsberger, who didn’t believe that high mileage running was a guaranteed pre-requisite for marathon success.
Looking back her viewpoint was correct. You can’t get caught up in high mileage running unless you look at it at all angles.
High mileage running may give you overall fitness but it won’t necessarily prepare you for race specific efforts.
That being said, Matt Fitzgerald, author of Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance noted in his article Easy Does it: High Mileage or High Intensity? that researchers found improvements in high mileage running comprised of 81 percent running easy, 8.5 percent at speeds exceeding race pace and 10.5 percent done at threshold pace.
Threshold pace is the pace you want to run at when lactic acid begins to form up in your blood stream. Runners that are ‘currently’ running faster than you are, have simply trained at longer periods of time at their lactate threshold.
No one ever drowned in sweat. Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts- Dan Gable
High mileage, alone, is not the answer. As Fitzgerald noted running at 81 percent easy, 8.5 percent at speeds exceeding race pace and 10.5 percent at threshold pace is more beneficial to runners than at 67 percent easy running, 8.5 percent at paces exceeding race pace and 24.5 percent at threshold pace.
Adding more and more mileage to your weekly training does not produce equal percentages of improvement in competitive fitness.-Exercise Physiologist and elite coach Jack Daniels
Scientists are leaning more toward high intensity running over high mileage running. The problem with high mileage running is the higher you go their is what Daniels calls a ‘diminished return’s higher you go.
I believe in this wholeheartedly, at least now I do. I ran my best marathon, 2.19.35, when I was running between 90-100 miles a week. This is still relatively high, but not in the 130-50 miles per week many elite marathoners run at.
I tried my hand at 140 mile weeks and I felt more flat than when I was at 90 miles per week. Remember, you can have the self-satification of high mileage running for high mileage sake, but you want results.
High intensity running coupled comprised of somewhat high mileage running is where real results come.
Results come from a detailed, specific plan. How are you running your miles? Are you training at a level that is going to cause a physiological adaption to get you closer to your race goal?
The five S’s of sports training are: Stamina, Speed, Strength, Skill and Spirit;
but the greatest of these is Spirit. -Ken Doherty
Think of this way.
If you are running 10 minute mile pace everyday and running upwards of 100 miles a week on a consistent basis, but want to run 26.2 miles at 6.30 per mile pace, is high mileage at low intensity going to get you results?
How To Make High Mileage Running Work In Your Favor?
#1 Don’t get caught up in high mileage. Will it get you fit, absolutely, but what works for someone putting in 130 miles a week can yield the same benefit for you running at 65 miles a week. The secret isn’t in the amount of mileage, but how you construct your daily, weekly and monthly training.
#2 Implement longer sustained efforts at just above your goal race pace.
If you want to run your race at a specific time, let’s say, it is 7 minute mile pace for 10 kilometers, than try a few runs longer than race distance at 20 seconds per mile slower than your race pace.
This form of training is closer to your lactate threshold mores than your aerobic capacity, which is at paces exceeding your goal race pace.
#3 Do very long runs at a minute slower than goal race pace finishing faster then race pace. If you want to hold 6 minute mile pace for the marathon, distance try a few runs at 20-24 miles in length, at 7 minute pace closing the last 5 miles at 10 seconds faster then goal race pace.
What you are doing here is training your body to pick up pace when it is fatigued, not an easy thing to do when your tired but remember, there are no breaks in the longer races.
There may be someone that passes you at mile 25. How will you react? Have you done the work necessary to react to his or her move? Prepare well in training. The training aspect should be the hard part, the race should be fun as you have prepared diligently.
In closing, high mileage running should be more geared toward runners aiming to run the half-marathon to marathon distances. Can it be utilized for 5K to 10 mile distances?
Absolutely, but no runner should think they need to be running 140 miles a week to run an excellent 5K.
I’d add, this isn’t even needed to run a national or world-class level marathon. It is all relative to you as the individual athlete.