"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Training Philosophy 1: High Mileage

High mileage has worked very well for some runners. It was the way that Dave Bedford set the world record at 10K, how Derek Clayton became the first to break 2:12 in the marathon (and 2:11, 2:10 and 2:09) and how Ron Daws made the US Olympic team in the marathon. The idea in the 1960's was that everyone had about the same amount of talent, so the one who trained hardest should win. The ultimate in this was Gerry Lindgren's "Dare to Be Great" program of 350 miles per week. The method fell out of favor in the 1970's, when the first running boom occurred and more talented runners took over distance running.

Clayton and Daws are good examples of the type of runner for whom the method works. Clayton had a VO2 max of 69.7 (compare Prefontaine's 84.4), typical of most 2:24 marathoners, but he was able to run 5 minute miles for 90 minutes without effort because he trained to do just that, running 8000 miles per year at his peak, entirely under 6 minutes per mile. Daws had a maximum heart rate of 187 (compare Prefontaine's 214), but he could run at 180 bpm for 2.5 hours, because he trained to do it.

Currently, high mileage is seen mostly among some top Japanese marathoners and among ultrarunners (both good and average). There's what I call the 130 group: run 130 miles per week, 130 minutes per day and finish a marathon in 130 minutes (2:10); it's a convenient 5 marathons per week at 6 minutes per mile. To do this, one has to be extremely talented, extremely diligent, willing to train hard every day for 15 years to have one or two great races and have no biomechanical flaws that lead to injury. Training long every day causes one to be efficient at running long at training pace, but doesn't mean one can race any faster; to compensate for this, they race a marathon once a month, or about 5% of their mileage. There's no training more specific than racing.

Among ultrarunners, running long every day also works for those who plan to do races often, but don't actually push themselves all-out in many races. There are enough low-key ultras that some runners can enter races knowing they'll finish hours ahead of their competition (especially true among women); if they can run 24 hours and win, why try to run 20? Their races become their speedwork.

The alternative for high volume is to run more than once per day. I've never been a fan of two-a-days, but have to admit that the more miles one runs, the more frequently one can race. It does make sense once one is running races considerably longer than 12 hours in length; one's going to be racing both morning and night so one should get the feel for it. I got to see how Mike Henze trained to run 147.4 miles at FANS; it was rather disappointing - he followed Jack Daniels' marathon training plan A to the letter, adding a second run each day to up the mileage to 130 per week and did 5 ultra-length training runs spaced about 5 weeks apart. I've heard one 24-hour specialist say that one can expect to run as many miles in the race as the most miles one ran in a week of training (I hate to admit this holds true for my poor performances).

Almost no one has the time to train this way and most who try end up getting overuse injuries. One way that these injuries get minimized is by doing cross-training for the second workout, rather than running more miles that tend to be "junk" miles. Cross-training will get covered in the next post in the series: low mileage.


Psyche said...

Talk about controversy! Many top marathoners still swear you have to be up there at 120-140 mpw to be competitive. As for me, I feel like 70-90 mpw is definitely required to race my best at 26.2.

My brain will not accept racing distances further than this. Yet.

Mike Russell said...

Agreed. What has enabled me to get faster and to actually run longer are those damn tempo and VO2 max workouts. Higher intensity at a lower volume has helped me improve my fitness to a level I am comfortable with.

Great post.

Helen said...

Will post no.3 be high mileage + cross-training??

Thanks Coach!

I am about to board a plane to Las Vegas - I think I'll spend the journey doing some numbers for myself similar to that 130 idea... If I get asked if I'm calculating my odds for winning big in Vegas I may have trouble explaining...

SteveQ said...

Well, as I said before, the next post is low-mileage; there's more than one way to train!

Glaven Z. Heisenberg said...

In a comment on the post subsequent to this one, I asked you to address, seriously, the question of why you revealed my true identity, viz., Glaven Z. Hiesenberg.

But never mind.

Because after reading this post I remembered why you would do such a thing.

Because you're clinically insane, is why.

Best of luck with that.

Glaven Z. Heisenberg said...

Also, why did your blog misspell "Heisenberg" as "Hiesenberg" in my previous comment?

Could it be your blog is similarly insane?

prashant said...

Higher intensity at a lower volume has helped me improve my fitness to a level I am comfortable with

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