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

Monday, August 2, 2010

Steve vs. the Experts #9: Galloway

[On Borrowed Computer...]

Jeff Galloway ran the 10000 meters in the 1972 Olympics, then re-invented himself as a marathoner, setting a personal best 2:16 at age 35. He had moved to a low mileage program by then, a version of which he's been promoting ever since. The origins of the method were two-fold: 1) Jack Foster (yet another New Zealander) ran a 2:11 marathon on a three days per week (plus one day biking) system and 2) Many first-time marathoners were finishing their races on a system of just one long run every week or every other week.

His first book, "Galloway's Book on Running," came out in 1983 - apparently the year for training manuals - and has been released in revised editions ever since. he's published a number of books since then, including a book specifically about the marathon just this year. His training schedules have changed over the years, but the basic ideas remain. These books are always popular, but I've never known anyone to run a fast marathon using his plans; it's like advertising a method of weight loss without diet or exercise: you'll sell books, no matter how bad the idea is, because people want to believe it'll work. I believe his method is what I call "hollow;" it works for the extremely fast and the extremely slow, for different reasons, but not in between.

First, unlike others who will say to never run as much as 26 miles in one day in training, Galloway insists on it. This works for the 2:15 marathoner, because it's a 2 1/2 to 3 hour run, about what long runs typically are for successful marathoners. It also works for runners who are simply trying to finish the distance, as running 22 miles or more every other week is essentially accomplishing their goal, over and over.

In his first book, Galloway had runners doing as much as 12 miles twice a week, beside the long run or weekend interval workout (described below), incorporating 100m strides at 1 mile pace or drills that duplicate what Lydiard had in his plan. He also had several weeks that included a hill workout preceding the weeks of interval training, just like Lydiard. These runs, of about 90 minutes, are much like what has been seen in the plans of the previous experts. These appear to not be included in his latest book.

Every other week, he had a workout of repeat miles, done faster than marathon pace "so that marathon pace will seem easier." This is a common statement, but the real reason for this pace is that repetitions at marathon pace would simply be too time-consuming. The paces he has seem too fast to me; one ends up running 13 one mile repeats at faster than 1/2 marathon pace. This speed work is about right in each case for a marathon done 10 minutes faster than the goals he sets [Train to run a 2:50 marathon, then run 3:00 and call it a success. This problem is even worse in Lawrence's book.]

Could one do an interval workout at marathon pace? What would it look like? A 2:15 marathoner would run 6 to 10 times 1.75 miles in 9 minutes, with 2.5 minutes rest, until he could no longer hold pace; he could then continue to do repeats at whatever pace he could manage to failure, between 10 and 15 repeats. [15x1.75=26.25, so it's a complete marathon at marathon pace.] A 3:00 marathoner would do 5-8x 1.75 miles at pace, building to 8-15 repeats. It's a very long, boring, difficult workout... one that few would ever attempt more than once.

It should be pointed out that this "top down" rather than "bottom up" method of running fast and building the number of miles done fast, is gaining popularity. There is a plan similar to my 1.75 mile repeats (let's face it, everyone would do 2 miles instead) that made it into Runner's World: (plan).

Everyone I know who's tried Galloway's plan built up to 7-9 repeats of a mile, but failed at later attempts and got discouraged. I think the changes he's made try to rectify the problem by having runners test themselves repeatedly to make sure what their marathon goal should be. In the new book, one does the long run once every three weeks, the interval workout once every three weeks and the third week he has one run an all-out mile for time. That "magic mile" time, multiplied by 1.3, he says is what one's marathon pace should be. It might work... one's time at shorter distances are good measures of one's ability and one mile rarely takes a long recovery.

Running low mileage worked for Galloway and Foster because they had already made all the physiological adaptations that come from years of high mileage. It takes years for some changes, no matter how one trains, and those changes are slow to be lost. For example, my resting heart rate this morning was 34 and I'm only running 20-25 miles per week; if I were running 80 miles per week, it would not go lower, but it's only that low because I've been training for 35 years. For a beginner at the marathon who wants to eventually run their best, a lot of mileage is probably required, but for one who only wants to finish, the mileage is immaterial, the long run is all-important.


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

ZOMG, you're back posting ALREADY?!1?


Anonymous said...

There is something to be said about the psycological relief of having run fast miles to acclimate to a painful pace. When I back off to a normal fast pace in a long distance race, the mental boost is invigorating; similar to a ball player swinging a heavy bat before a plate appearance. I still believe running in lead weighted shoes would produce results for me, but I have yet to pull the trigger and risk the possible injurious effects it may produce on the joints.

Pam said...

I am hoping Galloway ran a 2:16 not a 3:16 at 35, otherwise he'd just be another guy struggling to qualify for boston!

joyRuN said...

Does your doctor try not to look visibly freaked when they take your pulse & it's in the 30s? I'd be itching to throw a pacemaker in you.

PiccolaPineCone said...

running intervals at a pace faster than race pace so that race pace will seem easier does not make sense to me. the perceived effort of a pace is a function of the pace and the distance over which the pace is held. to me, the rationale for running intervals faster than marathon pace is to train the body's aerobic system. i agree with Pam that Jeff galloway must have run a 2:16. Is he the fast marathoner dude who advocates walking breaks? I know there is a fast marathoner who has a book out which espouses (spelt wrong I am sure) the benefits of walking breaks (which I actually do take when the chips are down but only if necessary not as part of an overall plan).
So... which cheese festival are you attending?

SteveQ said...

Yes, everyone, it's 2:16:36 as his PR at the notoriously fast Houston-Tenneco. Given the day i was having, there's undoubtedly more errors to be found.

PPC: Galloway has been advocating walk breaks. His system for beginner marathoners is standard ultramarathoning practice, as it should be.

joy: It's been suggested I carry a medical alert bracelet with all the odd numbers. My fave: the doctor who, taking my blood pressure at the end of the leadville 100, finding it to be 74/47, wondered how I could be conscious.

RBR said...

I was trapped alternately in front of and behind a Galloway pack (lead by Galloway himself) at Big Sur in 2009.

Intensely irritating to have a pack of 20 runners run around you (all too closely, I might add. If you are going to run that close, buddy, you better be buying dinner, a-hole!) only to stop dead in front of you to walk because Galloway's watch beeped.

So me? Not a fan.

joyRuN said...

HR in the 30s & systolic in the 70s.

Your brain's not getting enough perfusion.

I watched 3 girls Gallo-bounce around me at Richmond 2009. Bounce-bounce-bounce, then walk. Repeat. I tried my damndest to pass them once & for all, but bitches kept it up. Then they passed me for good. Springy fuckers.

DCS said...

Galloway's walk/run method. Tried it myself once at Grandma's when I was using it as a training run. I stepped off the road so I wouldn't block runners behind me, lost my footing on the soft shoulder and fell on my ass.I'm not sold on the method but not just because of my mishap. My best marathons have always been extremely even paced or negative split. Case in point: Grandma's 1981. At 20 I was on sub 2:30 pace and I followed Dan Conway on a surge that helped me run the last 10K in 34:30 for 2:28. I don't think walking breaks would have done that for me.