The number of problems I have with the way Jack Daniels presents himself and his ideas are seemingly infinite, starting with the title of his book, "Daniels' Running Formula" (1998, 2005); it suggests that he's come up with a scientific system that allows one to plug in one's goals and then following his plans, your success is guaranteed. I'll try to limit my comments to the validity of the basis of his plans and whether or not the Plan A for the marathon works.
Daniels started with a book, "Oxygen Power," which no one will ever read, but attempted to equate performances at different distances, as did Gardner and Purdy in "Computerized Running Training Programs." (1970) The Gardner/Purdy charts work well for populations of runners, but not particularly well for any one runner. The Daniels charts (Table 3.1 in 2nd edition of DRF) work well for the less than 2% of the population who are natural marathoners or ultramarathoners.
Daniels' theory of training falls along the line of the one presented by Scott (see earlier post), but divides training by percentage of one's maximal oxygen uptake and then tries to equate that with specific paces. He posits that one should train only at those paces which are maximally effective for gains in one component of running ability: (for elite runners) 74% for developing cardiovascular system (easy running), 88% for improving endurance (anaerobic threshold), 100% for stressing aerobic power (VO2max intervals).
There are multiple problems with this theory. First, tests of maximal oxygen uptake rarely have runners reach their maximum; there's some extrapolation. Three years ago, I could get my heart rate to 178. With heavy training at as close to maximum as possible, I have increased that number to 184, even though one cannot actually increase that maximum; I can only force myself to that point for at most three seconds, when his interval training would require me to hold it for a number of minutes. Second, the test has an athlete run on an inclined treadmill for about 12 minutes and is only a reliable test for events like that: it's a reliable predictor for 5K's for elite runners or 3K for back of the pack runners, because those races are about 12 minutes, but not for a marathon; it's no coincidence that the runner with the highest recorded VO2max (Matt Carpenter, 90 ml/kg/min) is most competitive in uphill races, like the Pike's Peak Marathon, as the treadmill tests one running uphill.
Training is specific, but not as specific as Daniels tries to make it sound (I hope to later show Brad Hudson makes the opposite mistake) and he ends up continuously patching his ideas until there's nothing left. First, he states that a threshold run is 20 minutes done at a pace one could race for one hour. Then he makes it a range of paces to be run up to an hour, where it overlaps with marathon pace running. Marathon pace running doesn't fit any of his categories, so he created another one for it. Then, beyond interval training, he had repetition runs, but he needed another pace beyond that, which he called "Fast Running" (cf. his 800m training schedules). Finally, in the 2nd edition, in Table 2.2, he adds 10K pace running, which now has every pace above recovery or ultramarathon pace. In other words, he admits all paces are valid, not just the specific ones he states.
But does it work?
The "Plan A" marathon schedule, first presented in Runner's World in 1996 under the title "One Size Fits All" is popular and has a lot going for it, if one ignores all the bad science he claims it's based upon. I won't infringe upon the copyright, but here's someone who did (schedule).
After a 6 week mileage build-up, he starts with intervals, then threshold runs, then marathon paced runs. This is another "top down" method, starting with speed, then extending the length of the fast runs while decreasing their pace and is the opposite of plans such as Glover's, which has one peak by running faster toward the end of the schedule. This makes complete sense for most runners, who are moving from 5K or 10K races up to the marathon; it is the length of time that one has to run fast that is the challenge of the marathon.
He does not give mileage totals, but states percentages of one's maximum one should do each week. He does not explain how he arrived at these numbers, but one assumes that as the individual workouts get harder, the mileage decreases. One of the things easy to miss in the book (and with which I disagree) is that he feels that, if you run more than 50 miles per week, you should run twice a day.
Hidden in the footnotes of his plan in the 2nd edition, he has runners doing 6-8 x 20-30 second strides twice per week. He doesn't explain why, though I think it is critical to the plan working - and it is remarkably the same as every single plan I've described thus far in this one detail!
He has runners do two very hard workouts per week. For example, in week 18, one runs a 19 miler with 15 miles at marathon pace (or 120 minutes, for slower runners). Every three weeks, he has one run 22 miles (or 2.5 hours or 25% of one's weekly mileage). He has a lot of runs that have up to 8 miles run at threshold pace, interspersed through a long run; again, not explaining the division of the fast sections. These are each decent runs, but they are each very difficult and probably too difficult to do twice a week for most runners. I expect most runners using this schedule find themselves failing in a workout and the fatigue carrying over to the next workout, making them fail at that as well; there is no "wiggle room" - you either do the workout as described, or fail.
The most telling thing to me is that he does not have his own runners follow this schedule, but an "Elite Marathon Training Plan" (included in the book). In this, he no longer has phases of training, but one does all different types of running throughout the season. And that's my method, though I doubt I could do any of the workouts he lists.
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