The Marathon: Racing Rather Than Pacing

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  dring 7 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #12082

    Andrew A.
    Member

    This reflects well things Ryan and I have been known to state — and then some. 8)
    http://www.runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=19997
    “We often fall into the trap of believing that our measure  as athletes is based on how far we went today, or our weekly mileage.”I'd like to argue that frequent marathoning may be  detrimental to some runners' development, and you may find greater  satisfaction and success aiming at a shorter distance during many of  your training seasons.”

    We went too long too soon, developed bad habits, and  failed to build the athletic strength necessary to support our growing  aerobic strength.”

    “Ignoring speed work leads to inefficient strides (the 'marathon shuffle') and injury as well.”

    I recall one spring when I was training for a marathon,  getting in 50-to 60-mile weeks, going on an easy 10-miler with an  Austrian friend who was not much faster than me at shorter distances and  was training for a different marathon. I learned that he was running  90-100 miles per week, which he considered barely adequate. Learning my  miles, he suggested that I should probably be aiming at the 10K. It  surprised and somewhat offended me at the time–but, while I ran a PR,  he ran his marathon more than 10 minutes faster than me.”

    How many miles are necessary? Let's look at one common  measure: If, as many coaches advise, the long run shouldn't be more than  25 percent of your week (many say 20 percent), any week when you are  running a 20-miler should total 80+ miles. This is in line with what top  coaches recommend if you want to do your best in the marathon: An  informal poll of five coaches came up with a range of 70-120 miles (see  sidebar). Less than that, and not only is the marathon distance a  survival stretch, but the long run becomes too much stress in your week  and you fall into the problems discussed above of ignoring other  elements, all of which are necessary to become fully prepared to race  the distance. I know first-hand. Looking back with a critical eye, I've  done adequate mileage for the distance only three or four times, and it  shows: Those are the breakthrough, negative-split races amid many 'glad I  made it' finishes.”

    What if, when looking at a training book, we didn't say, 'I'm running 40 miles per week, I can follow the intermediate marathon  training program,' but instead focused on the advanced program for the  5K or 10K? Let's not fall into the trap that we're going to “waste” the  miles on a shorter race: Top runners from Kenenisa Bekele down to any  collegian regularly run 70 to 100 or more miles per week with no  intention of racing longer than 10K. 'Yes, but they're elites,' we too  often say. Why sell ourselves short? If we can run 50-mile weeks with  several speed workouts, why not use it to test the limits of what our  bodies can do at a shorter distance, rather than accept that we're  intermediate at the marathon?”

    Running faster is just as hard, often harder, than  running longer.”

    “Rodgers says, 'I like the racing part of our sport–and  it doesn't have to be the marathon. The excellence side of the sport is  very important.'”“'In essence, I think it takes a lot more training to be  your best at all distances than people often realize or commit to,' says  coach and Running Times columnist Greg McMillan. 'For competitive  runners, I find they can usually run much faster when they safely build  up to more and better training even for shorter races like the 5K/10K.'”

  • #30341

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Been known to state? I think I've been known to attempt to beat it into a few heads. 😉

    Wow, lots of great stuff in there. One thing that I don't think was perfectly clear in there:

    This is in line with what top  coaches recommend if you want to do your best in the marathon: An  informal poll of five coaches came up with a range of 70-120 miles (see  sidebar).

    There's some context missing (or, in skimming the article, I missed the context) but I suspect the coaches are suggesting average volume ranges here over the course of months, not max out with a 75 mile week but average 55 and you're just fine. I often suggest looking at 1 month, 3 month, and yearly averages because those mean much more than one's single biggest week. To me, your highest 1 month average, not your biggest week, is your peak. Your 3 month average means more about your most immediate training and your yearly average tells much more about your base.

    As I often point out, it is no surprise to me that my 8K PR came when I was nearing the end of marathon training and averaging roughly 120 mpw for 4+ months and over 100 mpw for well over 6 months, if not a full year. I also nearly ran a 10K PR in a workout (including jogging recovery times) wearing heavy training flats. Had I raced a 10K, I would surely have been in line for a PR at that distance also. That would possibly have been true for 5K also. One result of that volume, in addition to the additional fitness itself, was that I was able to do much harder workouts without breaking down and was able to reap the benefits of them more fully.

    Great stuff. I only skimmed the article so far but I look forward to reading the full article when I have more time.

  • #30342

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Been known to state? I think I've been known to attempt to beat it into a few heads. 😉

    Wow, lots of great stuff in there. One thing that I don't think was perfectly clear in there:

    This is in line with what top  coaches recommend if you want to do your best in the marathon: An  informal poll of five coaches came up with a range of 70-120 miles (see  sidebar).

    There's some context missing (or, in skimming the article, I missed the context) but I suspect the coaches are suggesting average volume ranges here over the course of months, not max out with a 75 mile week but average 55 and you're just fine.

    Just the context of my full quote gives some clarity, as it relates to the % of weekly volume that a long run comprises.  If one has a max week of 75 yet averages 55, then the long runs in that block of training should max out at 19 and average 14.  Yet there persists a simplistic belief among the fundamentalist mass-consumption training guide zealots which states that multiple 20+ mile runs are necessary to run well, wholly independent of the surrounding six days of training.

  • #30343

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Very true. I guess I didn't look at it that way, given the fact that some plans also only call for one long run of the maximal distance. One could presumably do just what you suggested, one 20 miler on one 80 mile week, and fall within the guidelines while only averaging maybe 60 miles per week and 15 mile long runs.

    Indeed, it's no secret what either of us thinks of the heavy focus on the long run contrasted with the complete disregard for what happens on the rest of the week.

  • #30344

    Andrew A.
    Member

    This is true, yet in my observations those same plans are not likely to take the runner anywhere near 80 mpw.  This is one reason why I have far more respect for the Hansons, they are willing to stand behind something that will likely not be popular or what many are willing to hear.  Of course, their record in training people for the marathon is as good as anyone (up there with Bill Squires) in the US in the modern era, and is certainly superior to that of the authors of the mass-consumption training guides.

  • #30345

    Double
    Member

    I always felt it was another race.  Take inventory of what you have and train accordingly.  Mix all the pieces in you can optimize and let fly.  Grind down what you think you can run the entire marathon at.  Know what you can handle.  Too many people try (who want to PR or hit a certain time) and do a big build up during the period you need to be cracking down.  Work hard, go easy, work hard, go easy, work harder, etc.  Trying to maximize miles and long runs the couple months leading up to the race leads to tiredness and the “am I ready yet,” mentality.  Spend the time getting ready, know what you can pull, and take off accordingly.

    For instance, if I had averaged 40 miles a week for months and decided to do a marathon in three months, I would try and maximize at 50-55 miles a week all geared towards the damn marathon.  It would be futile for me to jump to 70-80 and try and get the best time.  That does not work for me.  You end up tired and wonder why your not getting any faster.

  • #30346

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Absolutely, and of course it is always interesting to read your perspective.  I agree with the mindset, as put by a quote I once saw (though cannot remember exactly) from Steve Jones that went something like, “I'm just a runner, I'll race any distance.”  And, as Beverly stated, there is nothing at all wrong with having fun with racing without 'putting all the eggs in that basket,' for whatever reason.  He is simply representing another side to counter the marathon obsession that is pushed by Gallowalker's Planet and its minions, people who have an interest in pushing their personal limits in terms of quality performance and have been swept up in marathon mania yet are serially frustrated with the outcome.  He is talking to those people and telling them to stop hitting their heads against the wall simply because the marathon has been built up into an immense cultural icon, to take a fresh look at the mile, 5K, 10K, half-marathon, etc. and consider that a race well run at any of those distances can provide greater satisfaction to those who seek excellence than a string of so-so marathons might.

  • #30347

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Insight from a genuine expert: 8) 

  • #30348

    Andrew A.
    Member
  • #30349

    dring
    Member

    I really enjoyed this article and the comments.  I am going to sound like a whinner, but I don't mean too.  I was working 75 hour weeks this fall.  I had a difficult time getting over 50 mile weeks.  I am training for a marathon and I will run 20 mile runs inside those 50 mile weeks.  It is the only way I can get a long run in.  The positives of doing this is leg strength.  I feel I have leg strength, but it is true during those weeks I had a difficult time getting quality speed in.  Now I am at 60 miles and slowly working my way up.  I am not a great runner.  I finish in the top 10% at most races, but not major races.  This is the way I get to challenge my body at the marathon distance and still try for PRs.  I know it is not ideal, but still somewhat effective.

    Again thank you for all the comments this has been really a great read.

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