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Galloway's "Less Is Better" Article

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Jeff Galloway's column in the May, 2000 issue of Runner's World magazine promoted reducing training mileage to run faster marathons.  It drew a lot of discussion on the RWOL Marathons Forum.  The following post, along with the two others threaded under this one, were my contributions to the discussion. 

Training culture is changing.  At least, it is in the US.....and US runners are getting less competitive.  It's obvious at the elite level.  But, it also can be seen in the degradation of finishing fields in races throughout the US, as illustrated by a significant decline in sub-3:30 marathon finishers while the total number of US marathoners has increased.  It can also be seen in the dramatic increase in the number of masters finishing in the top 10% of shorter distances around the country.  In other words, the younger folks just aren't developing to supplant experienced "old farts", who mostly follow the old tried and true methods.

In his article in the current issue of RW, Galloway said that Tony Sandoval ran a 2:14 marathon after his mileage "dipped to about 40 miles/week."  Now, was that 40 miles/week average, maximum, or minimum???? Galloway doesn't say.  The other thing he doesn't say is that in the two previous years before he decreased his mileage, Sandoval ran 2:10 marathons on higher mileage.  So, he lost 4 minutes as a result of "easier training."  That's not a big drop by most of our standards, but it's a huge gulf at the elite level.  And it probably translates to at several times that for us mere mortals.  He also said that when he and his peers were running mega-mileage in excess of 100 miles/week, Kenny Moore dropped to less than 100 miles per week and finished 4th in the Olympics while Galloway and other "mileage junkies", who continued to bang out higher mileage weeks, couldn't compete at that level.  So, did Kenny Moore excel because ran less mileage....or a more balanced program....or was he simply a more talented runner?  Would he have medaled instead of finishing fourth if he had kept his mileage over 100 miles/week?

Galloway also mentioned a friend who, after her first 3 marathons, cut her mileage by 40% and improved her marathon time by 20 minutes over her next 3 marathons.  Gee, I increased my mileage 40% after my first 3 marathons and cut my marathon time by 20 minutes over my next 3 marathons.  So, which of us had the better approach to marathoning?  Or did we both improve simply because we ran a year or two longer and developed further?  Would her improvement have been the same or greater if she had made changes to her program other than reducing mileage?

Jeff is great for throwing out these "snapshot statistics" to support his message.  But, they are meaningless taken out of context.

Let me say that I think that Jeff's article does have a valid point.  It's true that US runners, elite and mid-packers, were running their asses off in the 70's and 80's.  Average runners were trying to emulate the elites.  Mileage was such a big part of the game, it was difficult for most to work in a balanced program.  Many average runners were overtraining, although elites were handling it and performing very competitively with the rest of the world.  However, we have seen an over-reaction in the 90's.  The "younger" generations of runners, meaning both new runners of all ages as well as truly young people entering the sport, have been seduced by the "less is better" syndrome.  We have shifted from "overwork" to "overrest" while the rest of the world has moved on ahead.  The one positive thing we have accomplished through this is to get a greater number of people into running.  After all, everyone wants to "run" a marathon....if it's easy to do.

Sorry about that last facetious comment.  It's an overstatement.  But, I won't retract it.