Quality Miles Running Smarter Or Junk Miles

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after running a marathonQuality miles running

How many times have we heard friends or friends of friends talk about how much mileage they have been running?

I ran 130 miles last week!

How often do we hear of the percentage of quality miles running at faster speeds of that total weekly mileage?

Sally down the street put in 95 miles this week, awesome!

How is that impressive if she has a goal of running a sub 3 hour marathon (6.52 per mile pace) and is running 85 of those 95 miles at 9.00 mile pace?

Does that get this athlete any closer to that specific time?

Let’s dig into this further.

Listen, running high mileage doesn’t gurantee you, me or anyone else running success.

David Bedford of England, the former world record holder for 10,000m used to train as high as 200 miles a week.

What works for Bedford may not work for you and I.

In fact, am pretty sure it wouldn’t work at all.

I, like many others fascinated with wanting to run faster, have tried my hand at high mileage.

I tested it and went as high as 142 miles per week.

All it did was make me tired, frustrated that the results weren’t coming and nearly made me quit the sport I love.

I ran my best marathon to date (2.19.35) on 85-90 miles per week and am sure there are numerous men around the world who have run much faster on even less.

In Yuki Kawauchi, Citizen Marathon Runner, Anna Novick discusses one of the world’s top marathon runners from Japan who doesn’t have the luxury of time like many professional athletes.

Kawauchi is my hero in that he chooses to work a full-time job while training for his marathons.

He recently set a new personal best time of 2:08:14 at the 2013 Seoul Marathon

Yuki runs less than 100 miles a week.

The limit on time forces me to train efficiently and increases my motivation for my weekend training -Yuki Kawachi

This is considerably lower than many of the world’s top marathon runners and to add to his incredible accomplishments, he consistently performs at high levels while juggling a full-time job.

It isn’t about quantity but quality.

The sooner you realize this the less stress you will place on yourself.

Lisa Larsen Rainsberger, the last American female to win the Boston Marathon (2.34.04) in 1985 was my coach from 2007 to 2010.

We discussed this many times as after having broken the 2.20.00 marathon barrier the obvious choice I had back in 2008 was to run more mileage.

High mileage is what all the other top runners are doing, not all.

Lisa never advocated running high mileage to me.circular_logo_rundreamachieve

This is a Boston Marathon champion we are talking about, not your average athlete by any stretch.

She was always a proponent of quality, rather than focusing on high mileage weeks.

Sure, she from time to time would let me wet my appetite and raise my mileage slightly over 100 miles a week, but high intensity, quality track and road work was always the most important as was recovery.

I felt the brunt of that training philosophy and know it was the reason I dropped from 2.43.36 to 2.19.35 for the classic 26.2 mile distance.

Regardless where you are, whether seeking to break the 4 hour marathon, sub 2 hour half marathon or cutting weight, get away from the long slow distance mentality.

I have always believed that long slow distance produces long slow runners -Sebastian Coe

Nate, I am not interested in being a world record holder or Olympian!

I get it and totally understand if that is how you feel.

You can still run faster at local races by spending a little more time at the high end of your physiological limits per week.

If you are not getting the results you want in your races, take a step back, look at your training.

Sit down and try to figure out how much percentage of your weekly mileage are you doing at your specific goal pace?

How much of that mileage is spent running at speeds that are far faster than the speeds you have in mind?

Are you recovering enough between hard efforts and is this the reason you are not performing where you need to be in the race?

Lastly, ask yourself this question.

Is the slow mileage I am running for the majority of my weekly mileage setting me up for success?

It is far better to do a 4 mile run at 9.09 mile pace if you want to run under 2 hours for the half marathon than it is to do 8 miles at 10.00 mile pace.

All this being said, I am not advocating that high mileage is not what is necessary to run faster times from the 5K to the marathon distances.

Quite the contrary, mileage is very important.

What I don’t want is for my readers to be so caught up in hitting high mileage that consists of 99% slow training and 1% high intensity type efforts.

Recovery is just as important as getting out on the track and churning out 6×1 mile at 4.45 a rep.

The body can only be pushed so far before you get a diminished return.

sample2Courtney Baird did an outstanding article in Competitor magazine called Ditch The Long, Slow Distance where she states,

long, slow distance gets the job done is becoming a thing of the past. If you’ve completed a few marathons and want to run faster, running long, hard runs could be a key training stimulus for you.

Scott Simmons, a former NAIA coach while at Azuza Pacific University put training at faster paces for the longer races beautifully,

The focus has changed from simply preparing for the distance of 26.2 miles to preparing for the pace that would allow for running fast over that distance

This is key.

The way I dropped nearly 21 minutes off of my old marathon best (2.43.36) and to crack the 2.20.00 barrier was switching from long slow long runs to much harder, more specific long runs that would prepare me to handle the type of paces I sought that day.

I dropped mileage, tapered correctly and was running at 5.11 per mile pace through the 20 mile mark in that race (1.44.05).

Ironically, I felt as if I was doing my usual long run.

The same same philosophy may work well for you if you are willing to try.

If you have the patience to gradually, over time, extend the amount of time you spend at harder paces, you are going to cut some significant time off your personal bests.

It isn’t a question of if, but when and how much.

In The Long Way, Jenny Hadfield states,

Dress-rehearsal runs discipline you to go harder at the end of the run, when your legs are most fatigued.

In closing, what Hadfield says is to true, you want to experience more pain in training  than you will ever want to deal with in a race.

If you have properly trained at your goal pace and put as much emphasis on recovery so that you get the most bang for your buck, than you will cut dramatic times off of your personal bests.

I have seen it from total beginners to some of the world’s top runners.

You have to find the proper balance between running too hard (too anerobic) and too easy (aerobic).

Please share this post with other runners you feel could be helped in their quest.

If you want to be a successful runner, you have to consider everything. It’s no good just thinking about endurance and not to develop fine speed – Arthur Lydiard

I am now in training for the 2013 Scotiabank Toronto Marathon being held 20 October in Toronto, Canada and the same training tactics I learned from Lisa is what I will be using to prepare to break the 2.15.00 marathon barrier (5.09 per mile pace).

24 mile long runs at 6.30 pace isn’t going to do the trick.

It takes a very patient athlete to train specifically for a specific pace.

It doesn’t take skill to run slow, anyone can do that.

Learning to run fast and having the patience to allow your body to adapt to the stress load you place on it is art.

Everyone is an artist.

I have found in this sport that far too many of us are in a rush wanting the results now, not believing in delayed gratification.

It took me from 2002 to 2007 to break the 2:20:00 marathon barrier and several failures.

I believed in what I was doing and my love for the gift was too great to give up.

Don’t let up on your dreams.

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