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A Balanced Program

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Good points, Stephen. We agree.

Total quality is what we should be striving for....and that means a balanced training program. All of the ingredients you discussed are important.  Their order of importance for a marathon, in my opinion, are: endurance, AT, strength, VO2Max, and anaerobic metabolism.  I translate this to mean that the elements of marathon training, and their order of importance, should be: long runs and total mileage (endurance), tempo runs/cruise intervals (AT and strength), hill repeats (strength and VO2Max), intervals (VO2Max) and repetitions (anaerobic metabolism.)  I think that each of these elements should be represented in a marathon training program, although in decreasing proportions.  (The order and proportions are different when training for shorter distances.)  Without a strong endurance base, a marathon will be a very long event.  And both long runs and total mileage contribute to building one's endurance.  Thus, anytime I hear someone talk about reducing mileage to improve, it bothers me because it weakens the "heart" of marathon training.  However, as I said in my previous post, if total mileage is compromising the quality of the other program elements, it should be reduced.

There are other good reasons to run "low mileage" or deliberately reduce mileage.  One is to avoid injury, especially if one has a history of running injuries.  You discussed another.....cross training.  BTW, Galloway includes cross training in his programs.  I don't cross train.  Many forms of cross training translate to equivalent running mileage, whether logged or not, so that "total mileage" really isn't so low.  However, the reason that Galloway touts in his article is what bothers me.....reducing mileage because less work will make you less tired while training (true) and, as a result, a faster marathoner (not true).

So, what's the right amount of weekly mileage?  As you said, it depends on the person and his/her state of development.  In general, however, I believe that a runner should run the maximum mileage s/he can handle without incurring injury or compromising the quality of speedwork.....and the mileage should increase progressively from one training cycle to the next as a runner advances.  Generally, a reasonable level for a beginner for the last 3 months before a marathon is an average of 30 miles with a couple of peak weeks of 40-45 miles.  As most runners advance in subsequent marathon seasons, they should progress to about 1.5 times these levels, or an average of about 45 miles/week with peak weeks of 60+ miles.  Superior runners can go even higher.

William talked about another thing I think is very important to racing your best....what you do in the off-season also affects eventual marathon performance.  Many runners think in terms of a marathon program starting on a specific date and ending 16-18 weeks later with the race.  Then, it's all over until it's time to start the next 16-18 week cycle, which might be a year later.  I don't see it that way.  If a runner's primary goal is to run the best marathons s/he can, then s/he should be "training" all the time between marathons.  No, I certainly don't mean high mileage and 20 mile runs.  Rather, s/he should be planning on a macro-cycle that can last a year or longer.  S/he should be planning, focusing, managing and recording the training work done year round....including rest, which, as Samuel pointed out, is a major ingredient in a training program....all geared toward optimizing marathon performance.  Many runners get so tired....or injured....during a marathon program simply because they didn't get enough rest before they started it.  People who run marathons "year-round" are particularly susceptible to this.  That's why I like to try to follow the following macro-cycle guidelines:

1) A fall marathon program consisting of a 16 week training schedule followed by 2 marathons in Oct/Nov 4-6 weeks apart and a final shorter race or two, usually a couple of 8-10k's.  That brings me to mid-Dec.

2) A 2-4 week R&R break over the year-end holidays.

3) A spring 10k program consisting of a 12-14 week training schedule followed by an 8-10 week (April-June) racing "season."

4) Another 2-4 week R&R break before starting the macro-cycle over again.

5) Total annual mileage of at least 1500 miles.  This one is a measure of the total amount of work I'm putting into my program.  In other words, it's one measure of quality.

I don't always hit all of these goals.  For instance, I only logged 1350 miles last year (1999) vs. 1660 in 1998....and my 1999/2000 fall/winter races showed it.  They were consistently 15-20 sec/mile slower than the previous year.  (My log from the 7 years of my first running life shows the same correlation between total annual mileage and race performance.)  This year, I was on target with my 10k training program until late March, when it all fell apart with my transition back to Maryland from Florida when ran into some problems/distractions.  Now, I've lost the last 6 weeks of training and my spring race season.  I expect that to negatively impact my fall marathon program.  My long-winded point is that race performance is affected by more than what you do in a specific training period.  The totality of your long term macro program equally important.

BTW, one last observation.  Galloway's article doesn't talk about, or even imply, a "balanced" program or what should be done in the off season, just a minimum marathon training cycle.  That's the danger in blindly following his recommendation without consideration of all the other factors that impact marathon performance, if your goal is the best marathon you can run. In other words, it's a one-page "sound bite" from the book of running.