Jim2's Running Page

10k vs. Marathon Training

Home
About Me
Favorite Links
Contact Me

9/29/03

I have a little different slant on what I think you are asking, Carol. I thought about answering your post last night, but decided to "sleep on it" to make sure I felt comfortable with where you are coming from.

Firstly, I think that you are a very wise woman to step back from marathoning and focus on a 10k "season". Perhaps I think that because it is precisely what I have advocated on these forums for over 7 years. ;-) It's what I did and got good results. However I didn't do it on a one-off basis. I did it year-in and year-out. Alternating 10k and marathon seasons each year was the foundation of my running regimen for the 7 years of my first running life and 3 years of my second running life. I think that 10k and marathon programs complement each other and can "stair-step" you to faster marathon times more efficiently and effectively than just focusing on marathon training alone.

If I interpret your post correctly, your long term goal is to become a better marathoner by late next year and you want to use a 10k program to help to get you there. Your challenge is to make the best use of the time you have before you begin your next 16-week marathon training cycle, which would be no earlier than late next summer for a late 2004 marathon.

First, a few general observations concerning 10k vs. marathon programs. Speed training should be more frequent and intense with a little more emphasis on VO2max vs. threshold training in the 10k program. Weekly/total mileage in a 10k program should be reduced to about 60-75% of that of a marathon program to offset the greater demands of speed training. A lot of that reduction should come from LSD's which don't have to be, and probably shouldn't be, longer than 13 miles.

Now, concerning training progression. I certainly agree with the periodization suggestions made by several others. It is basic Racing 101. There are 5 classical "phases" to a season for any distance....base building, strengthening, sharpening, racing, and rest/recovery (R&R). What changes with race distance is some of the specifics of these phases. Although there are many similarities between the phases that comprise marathon and 10k programs, there are also several differences. Let's talk about each phase.

R&R phase - I'll start with this phase because you are just completing a marathon program. The R&R phase is not only for recovery from the physical battering of the marathon effort, but also for mental respite and regrouping after a several month long, dedicated effort of your marathon program that probably involved a lot of mental stress. R&R is a period in which I permit myself some physical and mental indulgences that I denied myself during the months of the first four phases of the marathon season, such as a hot fudge sundae and other dietary "looseness". :-)

Before you begin a 10k program following St. George, you should complete the "rest/recovery" phase of your marathon program. A reasonable R&R phase is 2-4 weeks long. However, it shouldn't consist of just sitting on your duff. It should be "active rest". A general rule of thumb is to run about half the mileage that you averaged in marathon training and keep all of it "easy". No hard stuff during this period. Just run as far as you feel like running from day to day, or not at all, and don't worry about how many miles you are putting in, but also don't let your mileage fall below about 30-40% of your marathon training mileage. You should be R&R'd by early November and ready to begin 10k training.

Base building phase - As the others said, base building is as much a part of 10k training as it is for a marathon. It consists mostly of just running mileage. Don't worry about structured hard stuff in this phase, although there is nothing wrong with doing striders or a fartlek any time you feel like it. You could even run a short race or two during this time. A little unstructured, informal speedwork or racing can help to work off some of the "edginess" that you might feel from constant "easy" running during this phase. And it helps you to keep your "finger in the pie" during this "slack" time from "hard" workouts.

In your case base building doesn't have to be extensive. Why? Because you have just completed the best base building that you could do for a 10k season....marathon training. Sure, you will have undergone a brief R&R period before starting 10k base building. But, you won't lose much of your base from the marathon program if you keep the R&R to no longer than 4 weeks and about 40-50% of your marathon training mileage. Your need to reestablish your base will be minimal. A month or less of cranking mileage back up to about 75-80% of marathon training mileage should do it. By December you should be ready for the next phase.

Strengthening phase - This is when you start to do hard running on a scheduled basis. The emphasis should be on structured hill repeat workouts and threshold sessions (cruise intervals and/or tempo runs). Make an effort to plan more of your "easy" runs on hilly routes, if your "regular" routes are mostly flat. And keep your mileage up to where it was in the base building phase....about 75% of your average marathon training mileage. All of these techniques are good strength builders. You should also start to work in some shorter, faster VO2max intervals during this phase.

Don't force yourself to run two speed/hill workouts each and every week during this phase. Sure, the more the better. However, it is better in this phase to focus on continuing to crank out mileage, running on hills and the quality of individual speed workouts than on the frequency of the speed sessions. In the 1988 edition of "The New Competitive Runner's Handbook", Glover scheduled an average of 3 speed workouts every 2 weeks in this phase. (Yes, he acknowledged the five phases in his 1988 book, which you don't see in the 1999 edition.) I think that is a reasonable target, but it can be adjusted up or down depending on how you feel as you progress.

Just as base building phase is the most variable phase in duration within a marathon program, the strengthening phase is probably most variable for you in your 10k program, Carol. Why? Simply because, following your marathon program, which as I said above is the primary base building effort for your 10k program, you won't gain much from an extended 10k base building phase. You will gain much more from extending the strengthening phase instead. The strengthening phase includes the kind of speed/hill work that you will need for good 10k racing and your subsequent return to marathoning. It's a fundamental element of training that pays big returns for both distances.

One key to maximizing the payoff from the strengthening phase in your spring 10k race times is to work in some VO2max intervals before getting to the sharpening phase. It's a good idea to make about 25% of your speed/hill sessions during this phase VO2max workouts.

I suspect that the strengthening phase could be the longest of your 10k program. It probably should be about 8-10 weeks long, if your "target" 10k is in March/April. That would take you into February.

Sharpening phase - Here's where you get a bit of relief from mileage, but work harder in speed sessions. You should reduce mileage about 10-25%, depending on what "feels" right to you, to compensate for the more frequent and intense speedwork. However, continue your weekly LSD at 10-13 miles, as you should do throughout a 10k program.

The emphasis of your "hard" work in this phase should be on VO2max interval workouts and a few even faster and shorter repeats, which are called "repetitions" by Daniels and "power intervals" by Glover, vs. threshold and hill workouts. Of course, don't completely ignore threshold and hill work during this phase. They just take a back seat to the faster stuff, which is the reverse of the strengthening phase. Also, you should make more of an effort to run two speed sessions/week during this phase. The reduced mileage should permit that.

See the speedwork trend between phases here? It isn't a matter "either/or" between the type of speed/hill work done in each phase. You don't throw a switch when moving from one phase to another. You don't "stop this" and "start that". You incorporate a mix of speed/hill work in all phases, but change emphasis, frequency and intensity.

The sharpening phase should be about 4 weeks long. That would take you to sometime in March. You can control the precise beginning and end of the sharpening phase by playing with the length of the base building and strengthening phases. But, I would keep the sharpening phase to no longer than 3-5 weeks.

Racing phase - One of the most significant differences between 10k and marathon programs is in the racing phase.

A marathon racing phase typically consists of a 2-3 week taper and 1 or 2 marathon races. However, a 10k racing phase requires a taper of only about a week, can extend for as long as two months, and should include several races. This difference is significant. It makes your "target" 10k race much less "critical" than a target marathon. In a target marathon, you either make your goal or a half year of hard work might be "down the drain" from a racing objective perspective. But, it's different in a 10k program. If you don't make your goal in your "target" race, there is next week, and the next week, and so forth. I have often run my best 10k race of the season later in the racing phase than my "target" race.

You can easily run 4-6 races of 10k or shorter distance during a two month 10k race phase. And such frequent racing is a great contributor to the subsequent marathon season!

R&R phase - Nothing much to say here. It's just like in the post-marathon R&R phase, including the hot fudge sundae. ;-) Just get a little mental and physical break to prepare for your next marathon season.

There is another general difference between 10k and marathon programs....the flexibility to race while training. Because of total mileage and, especially, long LSD's, the opportunities to schedule short races while training are limited in a marathon program. However, it is much easier to schedule them into a 10k program. This is an extreme example, but one year I ran 12 races during a 12-week 10k program....and set seven 5-15k PR's in the process. As a general rule of thumb, try to work in a race at least every 4-5 weeks when marathon training and every 2-3 weeks when 10k training.

Concerning a "cookbook" training program, I know that Glover's 10k schedules in the 1999 edition of his book call for only one speed/hill session/week. But, don't hesitate to add a second one, if not every week, then some weeks. Play it by ear. In the 1988 edition of his book, he called for more frequent speed/hill work. The 1999 edition, which you probably have, reflects his nod to the "less is better" philosophy that has infected running in the last 15 years or so. Don't believe it. Modify his schedules to do more, not less.

The basic message here is that if you search for the "cookbook" marathon or 10k training program that is "perfect" for you, you will probably never find it. It is much better to understand the training principles that most affect you and adjust one of the "cookbook" schedules to be optimum for you as you learn what your needs and limitations are. You have already demonstrated an understanding of this principle by pointing out a fundamental structural difference between Glover's 10k schedules and Pfitz's marathon program. So, modify Glover's schedules to incorporate the principle from Pfitz that you like. That has been my approach for 20 years since Glover published the first edition of his book and I started using his training schedules as a guide, which I modified to suit my specific needs.

I think that you are on the right track, Carol. You have a long range view of where you want to go and what it will take to get you there. That is a fundamental concept that many runners are lacking. Now, it's just a matter of working out the details of how to get there. And you have a leg up on that. Stay here on this forum and you will get the help that you need.

Jim2