The Iron Age: For many years traditional training schedules have described workloads based around mileage and volume. “You can’t run a marathon unless you regularly run 20 miles every Sunday and you have got to run 100 miles a week at least”! These were the schedules from the Iron Age. I can hear them (the oldies who have run hundreds of marathons) telling you to do this at clubs up and down the country. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in hard work and building up the volume of miles we run at relaxed pace, marathon pace, threshold pace and even 10k/5k pace. The schedules of old told us how many of these miles to run.
The New Age: My question is: should we measure our running based on mileage when these days our lives are surrounded by technology and deadlines? Life is busier and we all chase time every day. You really can run a successful Brighton Marathon on just three runs a week if you are clever and the runs contain the key ingredients.
When you get your training plans, cherry pick the long run, weekly threshold session and perhaps include one easy paced pre breakfast 30-60 minute recovery run.
Yes these three runs if progressed each week, can get you there! Any runs or sessions in addition to these three workouts are a bonus and completed because you have the time, the experience, recover well and crucially, are injury free.
If you are carrying a niggle, please see a physio ASAP and maybe X train for a few days instead. You won’t lose fitness and your heart doesn’t know the difference between running or a static bike, aqua jogging or the elliptical trainer. Listen to your body and what it is telling you. If tired, have an easy day or rest. If sore, maybe X train and get a massage.
Running really is all common sense, but the problem is there is nothing common about sense when it comes to being a marathon runner! My life was once dominated by distance and mileage. My running often became the stress in my life, not the release and I am sure there were times when I wasn’t healthy.
Here is the problem. Your current schedule or the gremlin in your head says ‘run for 20 miles this Sunday’. For Paula or Mo that takes close to 2 hours if they keep the run relaxed. For our athlete looking to run a 4- 5 hour marathon, it’s going to take over 4 hours, and nearer 5 if they keep it easy. How can that be fair? I honestly believe the 4-5 hour athlete will be over tired and never achieve their full potential in training if they stick to chasing miles only. Training for a marathon is tough, don’t make it harder by chasing those miles…
Let’s make it simple. Your heart and energy stores don’t work to miles. They work to effort V time. Let’s now move away from tradition and work to time and effort. Don’t worry if you ran seven miles or not on a run. If you went out to run 60 mins at an easy pace and the run felt easy and controlled, that’s all that matters. It was a good run with objective achieved. If it felt hard, you were running too fast or are tired. Don’t chase the miles; learn to listen to your body and what it is telling you. We can then base our effort on perceived exertion as per my article last week when I spoke about “how should it feel”.
So all you now need is a stopwatch, energy and our Brighton Marathon schedule that tells you how hard to run and for how long. Your GPS can tell you the pace and then how many miles you did at the end, if you really want it to.
Share the stats on social media and keep a log online somewhere… now everybody is happy and entertained.
The only time you really need to think about your pace per mile or per km is when you train at your planned marathon race day pace. It makes sense to know what 8.30 min miles feel like (if this is your race pace for the big day). It makes sense to practice this regularly and build the volume up, but it makes even more sense to know what it feels like! Know how your body feels.
Race day could be hot or very windy, the pace per mile won’t be relevant then; you will have to slow down and base your pace on perceived exertion or heart rate. Make life easy and run to time and feel, not miles. Don’t run 20 miles every Sunday and wonder why you have no time or energy for life, work, friends and fun. Aim to run 6-8 long runs of 2-3/3.15 hours in 12-16 weeks building up to marathon race day. Build these up sensibly, include easy weekends to recover and practice marathon pace within them regularly.
Time Vs effort really works and it’s the easy way forward. Good luck, Nick.